Neighbours crew to stop work; lock-out threatened
MEAA crew members employed on Neighbours will stop work for 15 minutes on Friday, the first industrial action in 25 years.
The MEAA describes the stop work as a symbolic action to show its members, who comprise a bit less than half of the production workforce, “are genuine and serious about their concerns.”
The union has been trying to negotiate a collective agreement with FremantleMedia Australia for more than a year. FMA has informed the union that locking the crew out of the Nunawading studio is an option that is available to it.
Victorian MEAA branch secretary Louise Connor said the crew’s action is tempered and reasonable. “Our members will hold a symbolic action on Friday, and, yes, Fremantle can lock people out indefinitely but that’s like turning the industrial dial up to 11. It’s a gross overreaction to what most people would consider a request for basic workplace rights,” Connor said.
“We are asking that the commitment shown by a skilled and dedicated workforce is recognised in the form of basic job security and a modest annual pay rise.”
An FMA spokesman told IF the company cannot agree to the MEAA’s “unreasonable demands” without jeopardizing the future of the program.
“This strike action will only cause disruption and unrest, and not bring about any change in FMA’s position,” he said. “FMA will take all measures possible to ensure there is as little disruption to the production as possible, and staff accordingly. Uninterrupted delivery of episodes to Eleven and Five will continue.
“The MEAA, who represent only a minority of crew, are compromising the name and reputation of all, as well as the program. It’s unfortunate that the voice of a minority can overshadow the majority opinion of the crew.
“FMA will do everything it can to protect the future of Neighbours and the security of the work it provides cast and crew. FMA remains fully engaged in the EBA (Enterprise bargaining agreement) discussions with the intention of having a vote on the EBA within weeks."
The MEAA said its 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.