The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has joined CWA Canada’s Fairness in Factual TV campaign, aimed at improving working conditions and organizing workers in factual/reality television.
IATSE, North America’s largest entertainment union, brings significant clout to the now five-year old effort, joining CWA and its biggest local, the Canadian Media Guild (CMG).
“What we’ve learned after five years of being a voice for factual TV workers is that they need and want union contracts similar to those in the scripted TV industry but tailored to factual,” CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said in a press release. “They’re done with being treated as poor cousins. This alliance will help them improve their working lives.”
The union says independent contractors and employees often work side by side in the factual TV industry and misclassification is common, which robs workers of their legal rights, such as overtime and vacation pay.
The issue is at the heart of a $35-million dollar class action lawsuit, filed in October, on behalf of hundreds of reality and factual TV workers who have worked at Cineflix Canada, which produces TV shows like Property Brothers and Mayday.
The statement of claim for the suit is based on the experience of Anna Bourque, a story editor, whose most recent contract at Cineflix’s Toronto production office was from Sept. 2017 to Feb. 2018 working on Property Brothers Season 6.
According to the claim, Bourque routinely worked 50 to 70-hour work weeks and did not become aware she was eligible as an employee for minimum wage, overtime pay, vacation pay and public holiday and premium pay because the defendants allegedly misrepresented her actual eligibility and entitlement.
“Workers in factual TV need a strong, experienced voice that can represent them when they are fighting for better working conditions,” said John Lewis, IATSE International vice-president and director of Canadian Affairs. “We have decades of experience representing entertainment industry workers and understand their unique needs.”
The Fairness in Factual TV campaign is part of a wider activism among factual TV workers in North America. In early January, factual TV workers at Peacock Productions in the U.S. signed their first union contract. Workers at VICE Media Canada, joined CMG/CWA Canada and won a first contract in 2017. The union represents more than 6,000 workers at media companies and newspapers from coast to coast, including the CBC.
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