Claim says hundreds of people were hired improperly, denied pay and labour standards
The Canadian Media Guild (CMG) and CWA Canada are welcoming a $35-million class action lawsuit [http://www.cavalluzzo.com/factual-televison-classaction] 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 wider 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 and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Write a few lines about your experience and attach a recent contract. It will be held in complete confidence.