Bectu launched its code of practice for employers in factual TV at its Freelancer’s Fair yesterday, despite failing to get buy-in from the independent production community.

Bectu contacted nearly 40 factual producers in February as part of its Say No to TV Exploitation campaign, urging them to engage with its bid to improve working conditions.

The 9-point code includes a maximum length of working day of 11 hours; two days off each week (either the traditional Sat/Sun or two consecutive days) and a minimum break between turns of duty of 11 hours (see below for the full Code).

Bectu is sending the Code directly to indies with a request for them to sign up and is also asking factual commissioners to insist that indies abide by it.

“The nine points represent the very basic points of fairness in working practice. If a company cannot observe those points, they shouldn’t be trading,” said Bectu supervisory official Tom Bell.

He added: “We haven’t been put off by indies’ unwillingness to engage. There’s a feeling that all this will go away because it’s too much bother but we’re not going to let it go away.”

Bell said that commissioners at broadcasters across the board had, “a very strong moral and possibly legal responsibility to ensure that anybody who is employed directly or indirectly can enjoy basic standards”.

In February, Bectu assistant general secretary Martin Spence wrote to indies including Wall to Wall and Princess Productions, as well as ITV Studios and BBC Factual, asking them about their approach to concerns raised in a survey of 350 production staff.

However, the only indies that have so far indicated they are prepared to engage with Bectu on the topic are The GardenLion TVHardcash Productions and Betty.

Bectu’s survey, carried out at the start of the year, found that more than 90% of the 346 respondents said they were either dissatisfied or sometimes dissatisfied with their working conditions in factual TV.

The move formed part of the union’s campaign, Say No to Exploitation in TV, which started in October 2012.

Code of Practice for Employers in Factual TV Production Departments:

1) a maximum length of working day of 11 hours

2) two days off each week (either the traditional Sat/Sun or two consecutive days)

3) a minimum break between turns of duty of 11 hours

4) Meal and mileage allowances in line with HMRC rules

5) Holiday pay expressed separately from basic rates for freelancers (where contract length does not permit holiday to be taken during the contract period)

6) A normal working week of five days. Where it is unavoidable to work on the sixth or seventh day, this is to be paid at one fifth of the weekly (five day rate or given compensatory TOIL, according to the preference of the worker

7) Health and safety risk assessments to take account of lone working and crewing levels

8) Written contracts to be issued as soon as terms are agreed between parties

9) We accept that Bectu is the recognized union to represent the interests of workers in factual programme-making and as such we are prepared to meet with them on a regular basis to discuss issues of concern to their members

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