... or, your union dues at work.
This morning the TAG Contract Co-operative Committee met with studio representatives regarding many of those sharp-edged items that cling to the cartoon business like burrs in a worn saddle blanket: uncompensated overtime, tight production schedules, storyboard and design tests that take four or five days to complete.
You know. All the usual knickknacks that make animation artists' working lives less than ideal.
The back-and-forth went on for an hour and a half, the Animation Guild kicking off ... and the studios receiving. (In other words, we came with an agenda of discussion items; the companies listened and responded). To wit:
1. Length of storyboard tests – TAG pointed out that tests, in many cases, continue to be 3 to 3 ½ pages of script, which means close to a week’s worth of work for artists applying for jobs. TAG’s position: the reasons for testing is 1) to see if the artist’s style of drawing is suitable for the show; 2) to ascertain that the artwork in the artist’s portfolio is theirs.
Management asked about studio productions needing longer test boards to see if applicants could handle scenes and sequences; committee members replied that portfolio samples should do that job.
2. Uncompensated overtime – (related to 3. below) – TAG said that many artists are working past the normal eight hours of straight time and working additional uncompensated hours to keep up with the demands of the production schedules. We informed the producers that we were holding meetings with employees and informing them of their overtime rights and responsibilities, and that putting down the incorrect number of hours they had worked on their time card was falsifying a legal document and they should do it. And if a production manager asked them to put down, say, eight hours when they had actually worked ten, to ask the manager if they were requesting the employee to falsify a time card.
The producers’ labor representatives said that they didn’t condone the falsifying of time cards and that if production managers were asking people to work uncompensated hours or not put down the correct number of hours worked, the labor reps wanted to know about it. They informed TAG that employees could contact the Animation Guilds business representative anonymously, the biz rep could contact them, and they would speak to production about the problems.
3. Production schedules – TAG said show schedules are often being shortened to the point where it’s impossible for artists to meet show deadlines without performing free overtime. (see 2. above.) TAG informed producers it was telling employees to work a full eight hours, but not to take (uncompensated) work home or to work free o.t. in the studio.
4. Job Classifications – TAG said some artists and animators were doing work out of classification (for instance, working as a lead background artist but being paid as an assistant b.g. artist) and that it was important for artists to perform work in the correct classification.
The producers said that the TAG contract has no “bright lines of demarcation” regarding classifications, there are no definitions, and that classifications often denote levels of skill. (In other words, they didn’t necessarily buy into our position.)
5. We asked to schedule regular co-operative committee meetings, so that we didn't go three years between meetings as we’ve done in the recent past. The producers said they are jammed up with contract talks until the end of the year, but they would be happy to schedule another meeting in early 2010. We agreed that TAG would take up individual issues with individual studios as needed.
The meeting actually was amicable, reasonably productive, and the rep from out Mother International said he was pleased with how receptive the studio folks were.
Of course, we'll see how far this era of good feeling extends. Contract talks happen May 18th. That ought to be a good test.