- Elite Member
- October 29, 2011
Thanks for this. I knew about the sale of the studio and its resulting uncertainties, but it's nice to see the rate information. The weekly rates are undoubtedly part of what NBC is saving when it tapes so far in advance.
- Dec 13 2012, 01:50 AM
Regarding the crew terminations, I want to expand on what I was trying to explain last night, because I think people may be jumping to conclusions. There really could be a legitimate explanation that is based on the sale of the studio where Days is filmed. Now that NBC no longer owns the studio, there may be a question about who employs the technical crew and what unions they should come from.
Hollywood has a lot of strange union arrangements that are historical anachronisms. The crew positions for lighting, sound, camera, and video- and sound-editing are done on most television productions by different locals of the IATSE. But on Days, the employees who perform those duties are represented by NABET, which mainly represents workers involved in local television and live productions (such as local news broadcasts). I suspect that is a holdover from when soaps were live productions, because the same lighting and sound guys would work the entire day and just go from show to show. So they were employed by the NBC studio in Burbank and NBC negotiated a union agreement with NABET to cover those "broadcast employees" (and, for people who know LA, similar arrangements exist with KTTV or KTLA, major local channels that also have agreements with NABET). That just seems to have carried over even though Days has been recorded for decades, so that certain jobs are performed by NABET workers while others are performed by members of IATSE locals. (It isn't that different from how AFTRA and SAG remained divided for so long, even though they both represented actors. Because AFTRA historically represented actors in live TV and radio and SAG represented actors in filmed theatrical and television productions, there was a divide between which shows contracted with which unions that lasted well beyond the point when it made much sense to distinguish between AFTRA and SAG TV programs. When AFTRA finally began to hone in on traditional SAG territory, the merger took place.)
What I think happened here is that, due to the history of soaps, NBC had an agreement with NABET covering the technical crew members that worked on Days while NBC owned the Burbank studio where Days is shot. But when NBC sold the studio, that agreement would no longer have applied. That left an open question of who is responsible for providing those crew members. Is it still NBC, even though it no longer owns the studio and is not the producer? That seems unlikely. Is it Sony, which produces Days, and probably is considered the employer of the rest of the crew (like the actors, hairdressers, makeup artists, etc.)? Or is it the new owner of the studio? And if it is either of the latter two, what does that mean for the crew members if neither Sony nor the new owner have agreements with NABET (which, as far as I know, they don't)?
Obviously, Days will need boom operators, cameramen, and lighting technicians -- and it will get them. (Sony is signatory to all the basic IATSE agreements.) The real question is where they are going to come from and who will pay for them. It sounds like some offer was made to the former NABET workers to remain, but who knows the details or whether the workers could take the jobs without violating the terms of their union memberships. It just sounds like the layoffs of those crew members in this instance may not have been the result of cost-cutting as much as the result of the odd staffing arrangement.
Also, I don't think we should assume that laying off these workers will save money. We have to presume that the Days techs were getting the rates set forth in the NABET agreements, which are on their website. Under the NABET rate structure, the Technical Director and Lighting Director would have received $1,769 per week and an experienced rigger would have earned 1,557 per week. That may seem like a lot, but $1,769 per week translates to $44.25 per hour. IATSE Local 728, which is the Studio Electrical Lighting Technicians local, has a rate sheet online that I found, which showed its rates through July 2012. It had a weekly guaranteed rate for a Chief Lighting Tech of more than $2,400 per week. And the day rates may be lower for Local 728 workers, running from $35.55 to $40.91 per hour, but they come with minimum 9-hour calls. So employing Chief Lighting Techs as day workers would cost $40.91 per hour multiplied by five 9-hour days (45 hours), for a total of $1,840.95, which is more than the NABET workers made. The same is true for day workers at the lower pay rates, like riggers, who under Local 728's rates, would cost $1,599 for five days, more than employing the full-time NABET worker.
The disparity is much greater for editing. The hourly and weekly rates that the members of the Motion Picture Editors Guild ("MPEG") get are much higher than what NABET members get. The most-experienced videotape engineer receives $1,759 under the NABET agreement. A videotape editor under the MPEG dramatic agreement gets $425 daily (equivalent to $2,100 per week). In fact, under most agreements, rates are designed so that hourly rates with their built-in guarantees of the number of hours an employee is guaranteed to be paid to work (whether he or she works those hours or not) will come out higher than weekly rates. The agreements try to encourage employers to keep a stable group of workers, by giving them a discount for paying weekly rates. So I don't think that hiring a group of day workers would necessarily be cheaper than what NBC was paying.
Finally, since I mentioned editing, I should add that the decision to lay off crew that do things like post-production sound and video editing may be different. Days could be planning on having that work done at other facilities, either by outsourcing it, having it done at other NBC facilities, or moving it to Sony. That could be work that is consolidated with other studio work as a cost-cutting measure.
So what about benefits (e.g., health, pensions)? I'm assuming the day hires get their benefits exclusively through their unions, and Days/NBC/Sony are not covering those costs. But when it comes to the old crew members, were they considered full-time employees and thus entitled to benefits? Not having to pay benefits is a huge reason why companies outsource, and I heard that some crew members retired early when they saw this whole thing coming down. That to me implies a pension package coming from somewhere.
Yes, I understand that much of this change has to do with sorting out the studio sale implications (and the old labor agreements), but it's interesting that it's happening at the same time as the other layoffs mandated from Comcast. Is it truly a coincidence? Even if it is, the executives have to be making money somewhere by doing this. Perhaps they negotiated with the new studio owners that the owners would cover certain maintenance worker staff (e.g., air conditioning). That would allow individual rates to rise slightly while reducing the total production costs for the show by having to cover fewer staff positions. Just a thought.