Recently, a large studio we know asked many of its leads and supervisors working on 40-hour deals to become "on-call."
So what the hey is "on-call"?
It's an employee classification that many unions -- particularly entertainment unions -- have in their contracts. TAG's "on call" language goes as follows:
... classifications covered by this Agreement who are exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 as amended, and whose rate is higher than one hundred ten percent ... of the applicable Journey rate may, at the Producer's option, be considered on an "On-Call" basis if mutually agreeable with the employee.
An employee placed in such category shall not be subject to the provisions set forth in Article 5 hereof [overtime] and may be required to work additional hours as required during those days.
If an employee employed pursuant to Article 5, Paragraph A. below shall be required to work a sixth or seventh workday. ... then he shall be paid one and one-half times one-fifth of the minimum basic weekly rate provided herein ...
Okay, so what does this gobbledy-gook mean in English?
It means that employees who are required to be paid overtime by Federal regulations (called "non-exempt") canNOT be put "On-call". But employees who aren't required to be paid overtime (usually supervisors and/or employees using "independent, creative judgement" ... and classified "exempt") can.
(Interestingly, "animators" are considered non-exempt under the regs.)
This means that exempt, "on-call" employees won't be paid overtime Monday through Friday. But the employees have to agree to it.
Oh yeah. And they'll be paid time-and-a-half on the sixth and seventh days worked (usually Saturday and Sunday), and they'll be paid for a full eight-hour shift whether they work one hour or eight. The contract says the on-call employee will be paid at the minimum contractual wage rate, but state regs require this work be paid at the employees "real rate of pay." (Still with me?)
So companies, good citizens that they are, pay at "the real rate of pay."
Years ago, the companies pushed hard to get the requirement of employees having to AGREE to be on-call out of the contract. We pushed back harder, and the existing language stayed in.
But of course, companies still have plenty of carrots and sticks to get people who work for them to agree to an on-call classification. Prospective employees can be told that signing off on on-call is a condition of employment. And continuing employees can be told:
"We're giving you a choice here. You can stay with your present pay arrangement based on your 40-hour deal ... or you can agree to this new "on-call" arrangement and show us that you're a team player worthy of our love and respect ..."
The subtext being, "you want to to keep working here ... hmmmm?" Many supervisors take the second option.
As we say, leverage counts for a lot in Tinseltown.
Add On: Ooh boy. I've corrected the typo right under the contract language: "... employees who are required ... " and a couple of other semi-garbled passages. Sorry for any confusion.