UK union Bectu calls for government intervention to tackle freelancer ‘crisis’

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For lots of professionals in the UK screen industry, the work simply hasn’t come back since last year’s strikes. Bectu is calling on the government to step in.

Last year was a difficult time for people in the UK screen sector. Lots of talented people found themselves out of work, given that so much of our service-based screen industry is dependent on investment and projects from across the Atlantic, where a series of damaging strikes shut down the US industry for months on end.

As if the shutdown wasn’t bad enough, the knowledge that these strikes would in no way improve the pay and conditions for these British workers was a source of further frustration. If that wasn’t bad enough, the creative sector trade union Bectu has now revealed that the majority of these UK professionals are yet to find work, months after the strikes have ended.

It paints a pretty bleak picture of the British screen sector, with Bectu’s head Philippa Childs writing in an open letter to the government (thanks, Screen Daily): “The future of our much loved and globally revered film and TV industry, and one of the UK’s economic heavyweights, depends on urgent and joined up action. The workforce, who underpin the sector’s success, must have a seat at the table.”

Read more: As Hollywood strikes near their conclusion, UK crews are still suffering

While nobody expected things to spring straight back to full capacity, the slow grind into gear has exposed just how fragile freelance workers in the industry are. We’ve been covering this story for months now, and it’s troubling that things are taking so long to recover while talented and hard-working people are finding themselves in dire financial straits.

According to the report, “Of the 4,000 workers polled, 58% said they had not seen a recovery in their employment since the SAG-AFTRA strike ended. A further 80% were concerned about their financial security over the next six months while 37% said they were planning on leaving the industry within the next five years – up from 24% in September. Those in work dropped even further in the east midlands, where it was only 18%, and the north east where it was reported as 21%. Those struggling with their mental health was also polled at 75% of workers.”

Will a direct appeal to the government help? Like many of her predecessors, the government’s culture secretary Lucy Frazer loves to trumpet the successes of the UK screen sector, so any public acknowledgment that the industry is failing its workers would represent the kind of U-turn that a struggling government in an election year is probably averse to making. But we can hope.

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