Monday, January 22, 2007

Daily Rates

Time once again some for a little narrow-casting, this time on the riveting subject of "Daily Rates."

And what might those be? Why, they're the minimum wage somebody gets if that somebody is hired on a day-to-day basis rather than, say, a weekly one...

From the ever-popular TAG Collective Bargaining Agreement:

Article 5.B.1. - Daily Employment:...All time worked up to eight (8) hours per day shall be paid at 117.719% (which rate is inclusive of vacation and holiday pay) of the minimum basic hourly rate provided herein for such employee's classification. All time worked in excess of eight (8) hours per day shall be paid at one and one half (1 1/2) times the applicable hourly rate provided herein for such employee's classification.

2. Employees employed on a daily basis shall receive written confirmation from Producer prior to commencement of employment that employment is on a daily basis.

Let's cut through the thicket of legalese with a couple of examples. One of the standard minimum rates in the contract covers animators, layout artists and model designers. Here are the wages now in force:

Weekly rate (40 hours): $1,446.56 ($36.164 per hour)

Daily rate (40 hours): $1,702.80 ($42.57 per hour)

The Daily rate has built into it 4% for vacation and 3.719% for holidays, also a 10% overscale premium (which gets you to the 117.719% daily rate noted above.)

Here's one more example, this time for color stylist/animation checker:

Weekly rate (40 hours: $1,237.69 ($30.949 per hour)

Daily rate (40 hours): $1,457.20 ($36.43 per hour)

Now. Why would a studio pay the 17.719% premium for the daily rate? Because they don't have to offer an employee a weekly guarantee. Somebody can work two days, three days, and be laid off by the employer without any obligation to pay for the final two or three days of the week (which the "weekly rate" requires).

Here's another wrinkle: If an employer is paying overscale anyway, they occasionally use the daily rate to avoid paying vacation and holiday. The problem is, often times an employer never tells its employee in writing that she's on the "daily rate." More than once I've called to ask a studio why Betty the Layout Artist never got any vacation/holiday pay when she was laid off. The answer I get is:

"Ah, Betty was working daily. And, uhm, vacation and daily are built into the rate."

"Fine. Got it. Can you fax me a copy of the written notice you gave to Betty before she started work? As required by the contract? Because Betty doesn't recall receiving it."

"Uh. We'll get back to you..."

The halcyon days of big overscale pay rates are far behind us, and studios today are looking for ways to cut ballooning budgets. Some production managers have glommed onto the "daily" classification as a way to rein in expenses. By and large, the daily rate doesn't do that, but I guess it's pretty for the studios to think that it does.*

*It's mostly television producers who use the daily rate.


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