Today marks one week since the inaugural meeting of the Vancouver VFX/Animation steering committee. The committee comprised of senior artists who work for 4 major companies located in Vancouver will remain anonymous at this time. The meeting was very productive with a lot to go over on next steps of unionizing. The artists are united in their resolve to bring change for the betterment of everyone working in the industry. As the scope of their work expands, the committee will also expand to add additional members.
One of the items discussed was a “Q and A” post, questions from artists to the artists on the committee. The committee has started the ball rolling:
VFX/Animation Steering Committee Q & A:
Could you lay out in simple terms the longer-term strategy for signing rep cards?
Signing a rep card is the best thing we can do right now to improve our working conditions. The more that sign up, the better our chances. Rep cards are valid for 90 days once you sign up.
1. When you start a new job, sign a card.
2. If you’re still there after 90 days, sign again (don’t worry you’ll be sent a reminder).
3. If you work somewhere else, sign again. (you might have 2 cards going at once, 1 from your old place still valid for 90 days and 1 from your new place now– that’s cool, just keep signing)
4. Go back to step 1
The best way to is to keep signing cards every 90 days and when you start a new job.
How does the union help me if I am already at a shop that treats me well?
If you feel well treated today that’s great. But you have to fight to keep it that way. Right now, without a union, your employer sets the terms and conditions of your employment. They can change it all tomorrow if they feel like it. We’ve all seen good places get taken over with “management”. Or good places that go bust and suddenly stop your paychecks. With a union you have the protections of the negotiated contract and the benefit of legal advocacy. You will have a voice.
Don’t make the same mistake of waiting till things get real bad to act. By then it’s too late.
What would the union be able to do regarding the misclassification of artists as IT technicians and the effects of that on OT policy, etc., if any?
Did you know by B.C labour law you should be getting 1.5x after 8hrs!
How do companies get around this? By misclassifying you as IT technicians.
In a unionized shop where artists are working under a collective agreement with overtime calculated after 8 hours. The high technology clause of Employment Standards Act does not apply. Even if you are defined as a high tech professional you will still be in the bargaining unit and get overtime after 8.
How much is the total cost exactly when signing up?
Sign a rep card = $0
Until there is proper collective agreement in place, there are no dues collected.
In addition the initiation fees (usually $450) for organizing purposes are being 100 % waived.
When do I first start to pay dues and how often after that?
Only upon a successful first collective agreement are membership dues collected.
They are $320/year.
(Full payment prior to March 31 gets 10% discount, $288)
Can I cancel my membership if I want?
Yes, you can resign membership or take an honourable withdrawal which allows you to come back into membership at a later date.
What happens if I work at one union shop then go to one that isn’t? Do my union benefits or membership end?
As long as your membership dues are paid up, you remain a member regardless of where you are. You bank hours into your health benefits plan and they continue as long as there are hours in your bank. If these run out you may be able to self-pay to maintain coverage for a period of up to a year.
What happens if I return back to work at the union shop again? Do I have to sign up all over again?
If you have maintained your membership you do not need to rejoin, you are still a member. If you have taken an honourable withdrawal you would reinstate your membership.
What if I leave the country and then come back after a while? Do I have to sign up again?
Same as last question response.
If a facility organizes successfully with say for e.g. 60% of VFX artists voting for union representation, what happens to the other 40% of the people? Are they left “outside” or do they have to sign up afterward’s to benefit from results of any negotiations.
Yes they need to sign up.In a union shop members work before non-members.
Also to receive the benefits of the health and retirement plans you have to a member. In some instances, non-union artists may be “permitted” to work provided certain union requirements have been met.
What are the common scare tactics or “tricks” we might expect early on from employers that are against us organizing?
There are many tactics that a manager or supervisor may use to discourage you from joining a union. Some of these are:
Facility hires a new personnel director, who talks about “making changes” for the positive in the workplace, “we want to hear from you about any concerns and we will try to help you, it will take some time but we are listening, we’re all in this together”.
Suddenly they start paying proper overtime after 8 hours and improve conditions temporarily. “Management has decided that they want to treat you better.”
At this point they hope the interest in the union fades off and then they go back to their old ways again.
Management says the industry is highly competitive with low profit margins we simply can’t afford a union contract because we want to keep as many of you employed as possible. A union contract is a product of its time and the parties who are negotiating, it’s in everyone’s interest to keep the industry working.
Management will refer to the union in the third party, “big unions”, “union bosses” and misrepresent the union as not being in your best interests. “What do they know about VFX? They are just a technicians union.”
Jobs will be off-shored to China or India. And they can do this now too.
Got a question about unionizing for the Steering Committee? Email in confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org