#2.14 – Opt-In To The Working Time Agreement

More information about the working time agreement can be found here

#2.14 - Opt In to the Working Time Agreement
#2.14 - back
sent from: London, UK. destination: Ashford, Kent, UK

I recently joined Twitter after a couple of years eyeing it cautiously on the sidelines. The discussion about the state of VFX and what needs to be done is active.
What I’ve jumped into is one of my favourite topics, the ‘working time agreement’ in the UK, and how London companies have made opting out of it seem a condition of employment, and how widespread the notion that this is the case, and that somehow it is tied to OT, or waiving ones rights to OT.
Firstly, the WTA is only a control on the average number of weekly hours worked (48 hrs/week, over 17 weeks). This has NOTHING to do with how one is compensated for those hours. Even if a company makes you sign the WTA opt-out as a condition of employment, they cannot by law refuse your request to opt-in on the first minute of your first day of work.
Secondly, OT is not paid presently in London to staff/contract hires. Only weekend work is compensated as TOIL. It didn’t used to be that way. I don’t know if VFX workers might eventually get OT, there’d have to be a lot of fighting for that to happen.
If nothing else, OPT-IN to the WTA – they cannot stop you!!

2 thoughts on “#2.14 – Opt-In To The Working Time Agreement

  1. Hey Juan Luis! I came across your blog whilst following the discussion about VFX on Twitter. Some great stuff here! 🙂 Regarding the opt-out, it sounds good in theory, but I was curious whether refusing to opt out of the WTA had made much difference to you in practice. Take Gravity, for example (a project that was particularly crunch-heavy) – did you find that refusing to opt out of the WTA made your hours more reasonable in the end?

    Cheers, hope you're well – keep up the writing!

  2. hi Karl,

    Thanks for the kind words. I presume you're a Karl that I know personally.. perhaps current/ex R&Her?

    Since I tracked my hours every day I've been trying to find the time to write a blog post showing the hours I worked on Gravity in detail and discuss them, which I think will illustrate some of the issues here.

    It's hard to say if it had a material difference as I'd have to go back in time, opt-out of the WTA and work the entirety of Gravity again and see what difference that made.

    Here's the material effects of opting in, as I found them:

    – by tracking your own hours, whether or not the company does as well, you become aware of the extra hours that you're doing that you don't always count when you think about the extra hours you might have worked. You only think about the night you stayed late, or the weekend work, you don't think about the extra hour, 90 minutes that you're at your desk almost every day.

    – As the weeks got heavier, I did the 48hrs/week over 17 weeks average calculation, and a couple of times I realised that if I worked the weekend I would go over that average, so I kept that in mind as the week went on. I made sure not to come in on Saturday, even though others were doing so. I didn't like leaving team members there but knowing there was a hard limit on the hours made me feel like there really wasn't anything I could do about it, and if the production pushed me on the issue, I could respond with hard legal fact not just emotional 'please let me have the day off'. I never had to bring up this issue with the production.

    – asserting ones own legal rights gives you the feeling that you do have power and agency even as an individual, that you don't need to wait for everyone around you to take action before you can do something and feel it will have an impact.

    Eventually, my hope is that as more people opt-in this will force both the individuals and companies to truly track the REAL hours that people are working, and bring into the light the massive amounts of unpaid work that is happening in places like London, and that this will be one part of spurring real change in the way things are done.

    At present all the production spreadsheets I've dealt with cap out at logging more than 8 hours a day on tasks, because 'it would throw off the bids'. If you're not tracking properly the hours then you're cheating yourself out of ever bidding properly on future jobs.

    I do want to say that despite the long hours on Gravity my production and supervisors there were excellent – they are a good company run by good people – they were aware of the huge effort that was going into the show and did what they could within the limits of their relationship with the client to make it bearable and fun for us. I do not want to make this about Framestore or Gravity specifically. I've seen this same situation at every other studio and on many other projects.

    In the long run, however, I don't think the current system is sustainable.


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