Sunday, July 01, 2007

Weekly Wages, Hourly Wages

A few studios are now holding hourly wages down with a simple strategy: they are putting some employees under "on call" or "prepaid overtime" deals, wherein said employee makes a pretty good weekly salary ($1800, $2000, maybe $2200), but works extra hours Monday through Friday without additional compensation, what we normally call overtime.

Now. The above examples aren't necessarily bad deals. In fact, sometimes they're pretty good deals. But artists shouldn't fixate on their weekly payroll rates while ignoring the fact that they work a hell of a lot of hours to get them...

This was driven home to me a decade ago when an angry young CGI tech confronted me at Disney Animation's Lake Street studio and said: "What's the big deal with this union job? I was making way more at the last place I worked. It was like, almost two grand!"

We went back and forth about this for a few minutes, until I finally coaxed out of him that he was working 80 to 100 hours per week to get the two grand. Then the two of us sat down and pencilled out his hourly pay; he was amazed to discover that he was, after stripping away all the time-and-a-half and double time he hadn't gotten with his flat deal, making less than trainee wages at Disney Animation.

Moral of today's sermonette: It's always a fine idea to look at what your hourly rate is, because studios often strive to focus employees attention on their overall (that is, weekly) wages when the studio is holding down the hourly pay.

My advice: know what your hourly rate is. Know what your peers' hourly rates are. Because the hours you spend at the studio, and the amount you get paid for each one, is the marker of your true worth.


Anonymous said...

Well said Steve,
Think we should have an hourly rate breakdown on our wage survey in the future?

Kevin Koch said...

The way the wage survey is written, the weekly salaries are always for a 40-hour work week. Those responding are asked to convert their pay to a 40-hour week, so the hourly rates are always implicit in the numbers given.

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