The VFX branch of BECTU has given formal notice to MPC’s management that the Compositing Department at MPC are unionising, and will be applying for union recognition.
Yesterday (2nd Dec. 2015), MPC responded to this, and called the entire comp department (over 130 people) into a short meeting. They announced that the company had received a petition from BECTU for recognition of the union for the comp department.
They announced that they will begin negotiations with BECTU, and that they intend to fight this bid for union recognition. They took no questions, and made no attempt to justify the excessive unpaid overtime in the VFX industry, or other issues that have made this recognition bid necessary. ...
Visual effects is really the last frontier of unionized motion picture work.
Pretty much every other aspect of moviedom is performed under a collective bargaining agreement. But every other aspect has been part of production since forever. Digital visual effects, of course, came into existence after labor's collective strength had commenced its decline, and ... here we are.
When live-action VFX became a significant presence inside film production during the nineties, the CG artisans with significant experience were few and far between. And ... let's be frank about this ... these folks were self-confident about their ability to secure and retain high-paying jobs all by themselves because their skill-sets were at a premium in the marketplace. I had more than one visual effects employee tell me in the go-go nineties: "What do I need a g.d. union for?! I get five g.d. job offers a month! I make my own deals!"
And they did. And they thrived. For awhile.
But, over time, Adam Smith's law of supply-and-demand has a way of catching up and leveling the sunny meadow in which highly paid employees frolic. Such is the case with the visual effects industry. The compositors, animators, surfacers and others who used to command respect and top dollar now find themselves abused in the same special way every other non-union movie employee gets trampled. There's lots of under-paid and/or uncompensated hours to work, lots of unreasonable demands, lots of insane schedules.
And so now a large chunk of the employees at the Motion Picture Company have had enough, and are standing up. It's high freaking time, and we wish them all a speedy victory in this latest battle for less maltreatment and fairer compensation.