Monday, December 10, 2007

New York Viacommers, They Not Happy ...

I was over at Nick this afternoon, and this was a topic of conversation:

Parent Company of the popular cable television networks MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon, among others, informed their permanent freelance workers that their benefits will be drastically slashed, just in time for the holidays. Today, Dec. 10th at 3pm, MTV Networks freelancers plan to stage a walkout in response to these cutbacks, outside the MTV building on 1515 Broadway. The contractors have made T-shirts emblazoned with the logo: “Viacom Freelancers Get Cancer Too.”

Strolling through the halls, I quickly found out artists knew of the walkout but weren't sure if they had yet occurred (this was the middle of the afternoon, PST).

I ran into one Nick exec who brought up the unhappiness of the New York employees. I said, "I don't think these cuts were ... ahm ... very well thought out."

He rejoined: "Easy to think that, isn't it?"

... The offense that originally prompted action on their part occurred December 4 when they were instructed to pick up their holiday party invitations. They were then instructed to fill out “additional paperwork,” that was due two days later on Thursday, December 6. This paperwork contained the news that they were no longer entitled to their 401k plans, dental insurance, paid vacation days (of which they had five, and now have 0), holidays, and that the 50-hour workweek would become the norm

When I entered the workforce at the end of the sixties, the landscape was a bit different. I worked a summer in the Disney Studio printshop, and the unionized printers there received double and triple time for extra hours during the week or weekends, none of this time-and-a-half stuff.

And nobody dared to mess with a timecard. We all punched in and punched out. We all got paid promptly. Same thing when I went into Disney's animation story department a decade later. Time clocks, double time and triple time.

One Disney story artist (Pete Young) was dragooned into doing inbetweens on Pete's Dragon, working at his story rate and getting triple time on weekends. "Biggest paychecks I've ever gotten," Pete gloated to me. "And when I was doing the silly-ass inbetweens last Saturday, the head of the division came down and thanked me for helping out."

... “One woman works for MTV and has been in the child adoption process for a year, and it was ready to go, and these new benefits packages don’t meet the requirements. She’s just been walking around the offices in a state of painful disbelief.”

Times change, don't they?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

To be clear, I'm not in favor of these cutbacks ... but the slogan “Viacom Freelancers Get Cancer Too" has got to be the dumbest argument I've ever heard.
If the freelancers want to argue in favor of getting their benefits back, they need to realize that business is just that: business. It's not Viacom's job to worry about their adopted children or the particulars of their health needs.
The argument that needs to be made is that benefits are an incentive to draw in the best workers who, in turn, produce the best product which, in turn, generates a more significant long-term profit that more than compensates for the short-term losses from providing decent benefits.

Benefades said...

Wear your feelings about Viacom stupidity on your chest.


http://www.cafepress.com/undercut

Anonymous said...

"Viacom earned $641.6 million, or 96 cents per share, in the three months ending in September, up from $356.8 million, or 50 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. The latest results included a $192 million gain from the sale of Famous Music, a music publishing business."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20071102/earns-viacom/

it's all about the $$$...

Rufus

Anonymous said...

"The argument that needs to be made is that benefits are an incentive to draw in the best workers who, in turn, produce the best product which, in turn, generates a more significant long-term profit that more than compensates for the short-term losses from providing decent benefits."

In a pure free market society, this would be the case. But we do not, so arguments such as these do not hold much water.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Who are the permanent freelancers?

Are they the non-union crews on the Nick shows (Production staff, managers, assistants, coordinators, post, casting etc?)

Or, are they just part of the crew?

Please explain.

benefades said...

they are the production and post production staff. From PAs to Editors to Showrunners.

Anonymous said...

Viacom sold Famous Music? Morons! They'll regret that move in the future. Economic whiz kids Viacom ain't.

Site Meter