Sunday, January 13, 2008

What to do if you're an Axium victim

As Steve said in his last post, I'll be filling in over the next week with some extra posts while the Chief Blogger attends the IATSE quarterly meeting in Orlando.

Along with the ongoing writers' strike, the big news in town has been, and continues to be, the collapse of the entertainment industry's biggest payroll company.

There's no question that a lot of below-the-line people in Hollywood, already hurting because of the writers' strike, have been royally shafted by Axium's sudden collapse. I've spoken to several union reps whose members' paychecks bounced after Golden Tree Asset Management, Axium's primary lender, seized $22 million from Axium's bank accounts.

A brief lesson in movie payroll economics: Payroll companies function in one of two ways, either as primary employers or as secondary employers. When a company such as Cartoon Network Studios or Crest Animation signs a contract with the Animation Guild, they will sometimes use a payroll company such as Axium, Entertainment Partners or Cast and Crew to handle their payroll business.

Because CNS and Crest are signed to the TAG contract, the payroll company is the secondary employer; CNS and Crest are the primary employer, and they are directly responsible for the payroll. Bothe Cartoon Network and Crest have already assured us that they will have no problems meeting their obligations, and Susan Gelb of Crest was quoted as such in this Los Angeles Times article.

Indeed, we have not yet heard from any TAG member whose Axium-issued paycheck has bounced, and those union-shop animation companies that were using Axium have already arranged with other payroll companies to handle their business. If your check has bounced, or if you're having any problems related to the Axium collapse, be sure to notify us immediately. This page on the IATSE website has information on what to do if you don't receive a W-2 form for a job that was handled through Axium.

If you read the Peg-Board, you're probably as sick of hearing me talk about the importance of saving your pay stubs as I am of writing about it. But this situation is a textbook example of how simple record-keeping can make all the difference. The IATSE (and, if necessary, the Animation Guild) will be taking legal action to reclaim its members' lost wages and benefits, but we'll only be able to help you if you've saved your stubs and can prove that you're owed what you're owed.


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