VFX Working Time Agreement In The UK

The way I roll on this blog is the squeaky wheel gets the oil so if you are doing something to help fix this shit I’ll give you props. So from time to time I get the occasionally comment from someone claiming my blog is “too California-centric.”

Funny because I can’t think of any media outlet or blog that has written about VFX issues abroad as much. Just to give you a quick run down:

I’ve written posts on organization movements in Vancouver and the UK.
I’ve written posts on workers being mistreated in India at Prime Focus.
I’ve written posts on work-for-free programs in Florida by Digital Domain.
I’ve written posts on uncompensated overtime in the UK.

That last one should be of interest because a VFX professional in the UK is advocating fell UK artists to opt-in to the “working time agreement” in the UK:

Even if a company makes you sign the WTA opt-out as a condition of employment, they cannotby law refuse your request to opt-in on the first minute of your first day of work. Secondly, OT is not paid presently in London to staff/contract hires. Only weekend work is compensated as TOIL. It didn’t used to be that way. I don’t know if VFX workers might eventually get OT, there’d have to be a lot of fighting for that to happen. If nothing else, OPT-IN to the WTA – they cannot stop you!!

This blog has a very simple idea behind it: I fully support anyone in our industry to be paid fairly and on time whether they are students or professionals based in the UK.

Soldier On.


15 Responses to VFX Working Time Agreement In The UK

  1. Charlie Don't Surf says:

    So how does one go about opting in – after they have opted out when signing a contract ?
    Personally I have been at one of the major UK companies for 2 years, don’t usually work overtime, if extra work needs doing I’ll come in on weekend. You can always refuse gracefully to stay late, by saying you’ll come in on the weekend, without explicitly opting out of the WTA – which would antagonize HR and possibly hinder your chances of being kept on after your contract ends.

    PS: Unrelated, but perhaps vfx soldier could talk about http://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm. it’s becoming a good tool, with a lot more info on vfx wages and company information. the mroe artists post on there, the better tool it will be.

  2. ukVFX says:

    You write a letter to HR saying that you’re opting back in – that’s it. But if you say you’re not doing much overtime – presumably not breaking 48hrs average over 17 weeks – then why bother?

  3. JL says:

    Thanks to VFXSoldier for picking up my blog post, firstly.
    Secondly, the way it’s worked in my experience is that I tell them I wont be signing the opt-out in the contract. Normally that leads to a conversation with the HR manager who makes a call whether to make it a condition of signing or nor. Normally they don’t, and say that they’ll need to track your hours. Depending on the place they either follow through on this or not – but regardless it’s up to you to keep a regular log of your daily hours. I keep them in a diary so there’s a written record. It sits there as a control for me to ensure that I don’t let myself be overworked, and if there’s ever reason down the road for me to claim then I have evidence of it. I take responsibility to ensure that I’m not doing more than 48 hours average over 17 weeks. If the company have failed to keep their own record of the hours is their business.
    IF they did make an issue of it and say, you have to sign it, then I would sign it, and then on day one I would submit in writing my desire to opt-in.
    In practice this isn’t about antagonising HR, part of their job is to ensure that UK employment law is complied with both from the employees and the employer. It isn’t a negotiation point or something that marks you a troublemaker, any more than someone might demand a working toilet at the office, a monitor, a working chair, etc.
    If you do a good job and otherwise are someone people like to work with, then you should have confidence that you will continue to be in demand.
    The story used to be that the big London companies didn’t work many weekends or extra hours, but that is changing. I’ve worked in California and London over the past 15 years and I’ve seen it happen. I think London is where California was in the mid-2000s in this regard, increasingly big shows with worse schedules and more often than not people are racking up huge TOIL banks now.
    Employment law is there for a reason, to protect you. We shouldn’t give up those protections for fear of that someone might think you’re a troublemaker.

  4. JL says:

    The thing that makes me laugh is that every London facility says in the interview process – oh we don’t work hardly any extra hours, we keep it to a minimum, no problem, and then have the opt-out in the contract. That’s a mixed message if ever I saw one. And let’s be clear, 48 hours over 17 weeks, you can work 60 hours for 7 weeks (10 hours a day/6 days a week!) and then 40 for the remaining 10 and still be under the 48 hours average. Show me a production that needs to work you more than that and I’ll show you a broken production.

    • edwardh says:

      That’s not just the case in London. The talk about working conditions and what they actually look like can be quite different in other countries too. Although I don’t get what they hope to achieve by this. Because first of all – you are mostly only be able to fool artists who are just starting out with such tactics. As everyone knows, the VFX business is fairly small. And that also affects how quickly it spreads when companies make you put in a lot of OT (paid or not).
      Secondly, they can’t force you to work and you’ll probably leave as soon as you find a job at a company with a better reputation anyway.

      And then there’s the thing about the average hours, which I would second. Anything more than 40 hours on average doesn’t seem acceptable to me. Plus – considering current unemployment rates, it would even make more sense to hire 2 people who work 30 hours each instead of overworking one person. I know that working part time isn’t popular because of the already often low wages getting even lower but… that’s another issue that has to be worked on as well anyway, obviously. Getting more people to work by spreading the work more evenly AND by spreading the cash more evenly (and I’m not talking about spreading among those who already get little…).

  5. ukVFX says:

    It should be noted that the working time directive came from the European Union – it wasn’t something that UK politicians were pushing for. The opt-out was negotiated for the UK by the last Labour government. The present government would happily see the law abolished altogether – something that may well happen before the next election.

  6. vfxCynic says:

    I think it is shameful that all the vfx houses in soho have colluded on not paying overtime on weekdays. If they paid ot on weekdays this opt-in/opt-out would not be an issue and you would be thrown out of the building by your producer/supe everyday.
    Simple advice go home at 6:30pm or earlier otherwise you are just giving money to your employer.

  7. USvfx says:

    How does TOIL even work when you’re a contract/project hire?

    They’ll keep telling you you cant take off cause things are so busy…then next thing you know you’re laid off and you never got to use the accrued time.

    What happens if your laid off and have a bunch of TOIL banked up?

  8. jez says:

    I can only go from my experience. But you are paid that toil. Toil I’ve never lost, either I took the extra holidays or when I left a company I was paid the toil I was owed in my final paycheck. Some places I’ve had toil, other times I’ve had the choice, money or toil, and others it just been money.

    Also another thing to remember in the UK is holidays which you are legally provided with if you are PAYE employer. The min is 28 days a year (this includes the 8 days bank holidays).

    If you’re freelance, if only short contract, lets say 3 months, you still get holiday entitlement which is 5 days for that period I believe. (Which the company owes you even if you haven’t taken that time off during that period).


  9. Vfx Artist says:

    Speaking of London…

    A colleague of mine told me that the Mill los angeles is doing some creative accounting. Hmmm… I wonder if VES offers an award catagory for that, because it seems to be a lot of creative accounting going on.

    Artist are asked to work day rate at the Mill in sunny santa monica. And when I say sunny i mean expensive, as in prime real estate 4th street expensive. So the Mill, a subsidiery of techicolor, appears to not be able to pay freelancers hourly, settling for a day rate… For a day that often leads to night. But thats not the end of it. Theres no deal memo, no contract clearly stating hours and rate. The day is expected ti be a 10 hour day. However, on my friend’s paycheck, it falsely states that the artist worked for a higher rate for 8 hours vs the true rate for 10. So in other words, say you agree to a rate of $550 a day: 50/hr for 8 hours ($400), 75/hr for 2hrs OT($150) to get to the agreed $550 a day rate. What they put on your paycheck is that you worked only 8 hours, making $550/ day, claiming that your hourly rate is $68.75! So on paper you are paid more hourly and work less hours. Why? Perhaps to give the sppearance that all is well and that the 8 hour day is still happening. They’re lying. At your expense. They are cheapening the business. Is this nonsense gong to be discussed at the vfs summit, or is it going to be the same sob story that labor is too expensive as they try to sell Four Seasons steaks at macdonalds value meal prices.

    • 839spi says:

      In addition to what was stated above about The Mill, they also pay some artists through an EOR – Yurcor. This puts artists on 1099 rather than a W-2 for their paychecks. If you are working on premises on their equipment , and they set the schedule, you are not freelance. You are an employee. It’s called worker misclassification, and it is against the law. Yurcor will also take money out of your paycheck every week as a “fee” for processing your paycheck.

  10. […] VFX Soldier – VFX Working Time Agreement in the UK […]

  11. straight to DVD says:

    Well, for the first time in 11 years I have opted in to the WTA. After years of being a slave to the job, enough-is-enough. I say that, but I can imagine a big sequence being dumped on me last minute, and all good intentions thrown out the window.

    But a maximum of a 48hour week averaged over 17 weeks is all that is allowed, so I’ll be keeping a log of my hours.

    Last year, in particular, I was easily doing 100+ hr weeks for almost 3 months (several of those 30-40hr straight shifts with no sleep to hit deadlines) all because the facility was so disorganised, the project spread over numerous International offices, and all artists suffered because of the project management and infrastructure.

    At the time, I never knew about the WTA here in the UK, in fact, like most, I just accepted that the hours were the nature of the beast. I never saw any extra pay, or time off, even though i requested it. At the time, the project was over running by several weeks, but my contract was coming to an end, after all those hours, lost weekends, and missed personal events, I walked the day my contract ended (after intense talks as well). Just a few days short of my sequence completing. It was extremely hard for me to do (I really respected the vfx supe), but a necessary evil for me, the last stand.

    However, going forward, I intend to always opt-in, and will be keeping a close eye on the hours, and seeing what effects it will have, not only on my work load, but my role in the project, and reputation as a freelancer.

    So far it has lead to a supervisory role on a film being released in late 2013. That said, I only hope I can keep my own hours in check, or even better, the producers themselves keep them in check for me, since they are aware of my WTA opt-in.

    Hours in check will mean, happy wife, happy life.

    Thanks for bringing the WTA to my attention vfxsoldier. Legend!

  12. […] that many there would agree needs to be resolved. I’ve also posted about enforcement of the working time agreement which is another labor […]

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