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News
May 3, 2019

A growing number of us are working together to improve conditions in our industry. We are the creative professionals who produce non-fiction television and film, including reality, lifestyle, and documentary work. We have many different titles and work for many different companies. Many of us are independent contractors, earning our living at several companies in a year. Some us are on staff at a single production company. All of us are concerned about how increasingly difficult it is to build a career in this industry.

WHAT WE WANT

Together we are in a strong position to make real change. We know we have been left out of the minimum standards and union contracts that are common elsewhere in the entertainment industry. We want fair pay, rules that are understood, safe sets, portable benefits and onscreen credits. All of this will benefit the industry as a whole, by stabilizing it and protecting it from a culture in which unreasonable budgets and deadlines are all too common.

The more people involved in this effort, the stronger it will be. If you work in the industry, sign on. It’s how you can find out about what’s going on and how you can be part of it. Note: We keep our list of supporters confidential.

HOW THIS STARTED

Our campaign began 5 years ago, when a group of workers in the industry started asking tough questions about largely unwritten rules, exceptionally long hours and arbitrary pay, and soon realized that their experiences were widespread. It also followed two high-profile fatal air accidents on reality TV shoots, one of them involving Canadian documentary cameraman John Driftmier who was killed in a plane crash in Kenya at age 30, while filming for a show for Discovery Channel. This group began a campaign with the help of the Canadian Media Guild/CWA Canada to change things and since then, more than 400 people working in the industry have signed up to be part of the change.

We have written a ground-breaking guidebook to the industry, collected data about pay rates, held events to bring the community of workers together, advocated for changes to labour law and in 2018, CMG’s law firm, Cavalluzzo LLP, filed a $35 million class action lawsuit against one of the biggest production companies, Cineflix, for unpaid holidays and overtime.

The film production union IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) Canada joined our effort early this year and our two unions have formed a partnership to ensure this campaign to get union contracts is successful, industry-wide, and reflects the needs of those who work on set as well as those in post-production and other work that’s based mostly in the production office.

 

News
January 29, 2019

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), North America’s largest entertainment union, is joining forces with Fairness in Factual TV. It is teaming up with media union CWA Canada, which is the ‘parent union’ of the Canadian Media Guild, specifically to support our campaign.

“What we’ve learned after five years of being a voice for factual TV workers is that they need and want union contracts similar to those in the scripted TV industry but tailored to factual,” CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said.  “They’re done with being treated as poor cousins. This alliance will help them improve their working lives.”

IATSE, which represents factual/reality workers in the United States and a large majority of workers in scripted TV in Canada, brings its experience and influence to the campaign.

“Workers in factual TV need a strong, experienced voice that can represent them when they are fighting for better working conditions,” said John Lewis, IATSE International Vice President and Director of Canadian Affairs.  “We have decades of experience representing entertainment industry workers and understand their unique needs.”

Denise O’Connell, a former factual TV worker who has been a key part of the Fairness in Factual TV campaign, says the alliance is a great step forward.

“CMG / CWA Canada has a history representing workers in information programming, many of whom also work in factual. IATSE has stood up for health and safety protections on set, which is a major issue in the industry, and its contracts cover both independent contractors and employees. So it’s a great combination.”

Independent contractors and employees often work side by side in the industry and misclassification is common, which robs workers of their legal rights, such as overtime and vacation pay. That is the subject of a $35-million class action lawsuit filed by Cavalluzzo LLP last October against Cineflix, one of the biggest production companies in Canada’s industry.

The lawsuit has changed the landscape of the industry in just three months according to Lise Lareau, a co-ordinator with the Fairness for Factual TV campaign.

“We know producers are making some small changes in how they employ people, in response to the lawsuit,” Lareau said. “It’s a start, but they are minimal changes so far. Union contracts are the only way to ensure pay increases as the industry adjusts to its new reality.”

The Fairness in Factual TV campaign is part of a wider activism among factual TV workers in North America. In early January, factual TV workers at Peacock Productions in the U.S. signed their first union contract. Workers at VICE Media in Canada, which produces news and broader nonfiction programming, joined CMG / CWA Canada and won a first contract in 2017.

News
November 7, 2018

If you’re wondering what’s going on with the class action lawsuit against Cineflix Canada, you’ll have the opportunity to find out more about it and ask questions next week.

We’re  holding a webinar and Q&A for anyone interested in finding out more about this legal action. It’s scheduled for Tuesday, November 13 from 7:30 pm to 8:15 pm EST.

During the webinar you’ll hear from the ‘representative plaintiff’, Anna Bourque, about why we need this action now. You’ll be able to ask questions to the lawyer at Cavalluzzo LLP, Tassia Poynter, who is heading up this lawsuit. And we’ll also talk about how forming a union can help us go beyond the class action to make permanent improvements in our industry.

This free interactive webinar is hosted by the CMG’s Fairness in Factual campaign. You can register to participate at this link. You’ll have the option to participate in this webinar anonymously.

News
October 9, 2018

Claim says hundreds of people were hired improperly, denied pay and labour standards

TORONTO (Oct. 9, 2018) – The Canadian Media Guild / CWA Canada is welcoming a $35-million class action lawsuit filed by law firm Cavalluzzo on behalf of hundreds of reality and factual TV workers who have worked at Cineflix Canada, which produces such TV shows as Property Brothers and Mayday.

The legal action follows a five-year campaign by CMG and its parent union CWA Canada to bring fair working conditions to this part of the entertainment industry.

“Reality and factual TV are the wild west of the entertainment world,” said Lise Lareau, a co-ordinator of the CMG’s Fairness in Factual TV campaign. “People working in this area of production are cut out of labour laws. They don’t have the rights of other employees, and historically they’ve been left out of union contracts enjoyed by the rest of the entertainment industry.”

Most reality and factual TV production companies make their workers set up their own corporations or sign contracts saying they are “independent contractors” and then don’t provide overtime pay, vacation pay and paid holidays. The failure to pay these basic entitlements is the basis for the Cavalluzzo class action lawsuit.

The statement of claim for the suit is based on the experience of Anna Bourque, a production worker whose most recent contract at Cineflix was September 2017 to February 2018.

“Picture editors and story editors work together taking hundreds of hours of footage and sharpening it into 43 minutes or so of entertaining television, but as schedules get squeezed our hours expand and there is never compensation for that, so our pay becomes inversely proportional to the hours worked,” Bourque said.

The ‘Fairness in Factual TV’ campaign began five years ago when a group of reality and factual TV workers decided enough was enough and sought the support of the Canadian Media Guild / CWA Canada. More than 400 people have signed up as supporters since the campaign began.

“Since these workers aren’t covered by union contracts, production companies often use them as a way to create less expensive but still lucrative programming,” said CMG organizer Denise O’Connell, who has spent 20 years in the industry.

Kat Lapointe, an organizer with CMG / CWA Canada, said the fact that you sign a contract that calls you an independent contractor does not mean that you are not entitled to basic minimum employment standards.

“It is not that simple. Treating people as outside of employment laws keeps people vulnerable and unable to build sustainable careers. It means they’re forced to deal one-on-one with the company — putting each individual worker at a disadvantage — rather than having a collective voice to win fairness and respect at work.”

The Guild is urging people in the industry to talk about this issue at work and join our campaign www.fairnessinfactualtv.ca. If you feel your work conditions have been unfair, contact the union at factualtv@cmg.ca. Write a few lines about your experience and attach a recent contract. It will be held in complete confidence.

Those who have worked at Cineflix, Boat Rocker Media, Insight Productions or other companies who want more information about class action lawsuits can visit the Cavalluzzo LLP website: http://www.cavalluzzo.com/factual-televison-classaction or email: factual-television-classaction@cavalluzzo.com.

For more information:

Lise Lareau, CMG Fairness in Factual TV campaign: lise@cmg.ca; 416-524-5473

Kat Lapointe, CMG/CWA Canada organizer: kat@cmg.ca; 416-795-8598

Denise O’Connell, CMG organizer: oconnellmedia@yahoo.ca

News
July 17, 2018

Do you work in factual TV production in Canada? We invite you to join with your industry colleagues to improve working conditions and safety, and help make this a sustainable industry.

It’s time to stop assuming we are excluded from the going rates, balanced hours, work security, pay consistency, safe sets and decent treatment just because we happen to work in factual and reality TV. The business if booming (yes it really is!!) and it’s not going away. There’s no reason why we should be treated as if we’re the passing fad.

We’ve been left behind.

The entertainment industry is doing well. Despite a rash of consolidation deals and a shrinking number of production companies, there remains an insatiable demand for video content both in Canada and around the world. That’s true of both the scripted and unscripted genres. Yes only the workers on the scripted productions have access to union contracts and set rules. We’ve been left behind, both by the producers and the industry unions.

Until now.

A group of factual TV workers is coordinating efforts with the CMG to see if there’s enough support to form a union at one or more companies. Such a move could only happen if there is a majority who want it. That’s why you may be asked to join a committee or talk to others about the campaign.

Who can be involved?

Anyone who works in factual/reality production – from story producers to assistant directors, to camera operators and editors to production accountants. All would be most welcome as supporters or committee members.

The Canadian Media Guild hosted a night for Factual TV workers at Bier Markt in Toronto on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Photo by Marta Iwanek.