Neighbours crew vote to take industrial action
MEAA crew members working on Neighbours have voted to take industrial action for the first time in 25 years.
More than 90% of votes were in favour of protected industrial action following stalled negotiations between MEAA and FremantleMedia Australia for an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA).
MEAA members will meet in Melbourne on Friday lunchtime to decide on a course of action. The options are a stop-work for a duration to be determined, or refusing to work overtime.
If the crew decides to take action, the MEAA must give FremantleMedia Australia three days' notice.
FremantleMedia said it is disappointed with the MEAA members' decision, arguing the enterprise agreement provides pay and conditions that are significantly better than the award and it will not agree to the MEAA's demands.
The MEAA reps 46 of the more than 100 crew, including freelancers, who work on the show. The vote was 30 in favour and 3 against.
MEAA’s Victorian branch secretary Louise Connor said: “These negotiations have been dragging on for 12 months and in all that time producers have refused to offer basic entitlements such as a reasonable pay rise and security of employment. They are also proposing to cut sick pay.
“We remain ready and willing to continue negotiations but crew are not going stand by any longer while their reasonable and modest requests are ignored.”
Actors Equity director Sue McCreadie said actors are in full support of an EBA for crew, observing, “The show could not exist without the crew. They have the full support of Equity and their actor colleagues.”
“MEAA and our members did not take the decision to seek an order authorising protected industrial action lightly. As a union, we never do,” said Connor.
“The fact is, the meetings were stalled, there was no movement on our important claims and crew have been disappointed and frustrated. We want to see conditions not only maintained but improved.”
The MEAA said crew members are seeking a 3% annual increase on paid rates for each year of the new agreement but the producers are offering 3% on the minimum wages.
Crew are also asking for up to one week’s additional annual leave, are objecting to a move by FMA to have sick leave based on a working day of 7.6 hours as opposed to the regular 10 hour shift, and want the agreement to make provision for those who are long-time employees on the show.
FremantleMedia Australia said, "A small group of people now have the potential to disrupt the production of Neighbours.
"FMA is committed to a fair and reasonable Enterprise Agreement that provides pay and conditions that are significantly better than the Award and provides for the sustainable future of Neighbours.
"FMA will not agree to the further pay and conditions demanded by the MEAA that would be an unprecedented departure from industry convention and practice."