Unions representing New York-based freelance producers and writers that work for Britain’s ITV Studios have accused the company of refusing to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.
On Monday (May 12), the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) demonstrated outside ITV’s Manhattan office and delivered letters written and signed by AFL-CIO executive vice president Tefere Gebre and New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson, urging the Kitchen Nightmares producer to come to the negotiating table.
The unions have accused ITV of refusing to provide health benefits, paid time off and other protections to freelance producers that work up to 70 per hours per week on the company’s unscripted series.
A spokesperson for ITV Studios declined to discuss the unions’ concerns specifically, but supplied realscreen with a statement which read: “ITV Studios America is in ongoing talks with the WGA East and has no further comment at this stage.”
Last week, ITV Studios paid US$360 million to acquire 80% of Pawn Stars producer Leftfield Entertainment. The WGAE pointed out that the deal – the fifth in an 18-month buying spree – makes ITV the largest independent unscripted TV producer in the U.S. Its unscripted titles include Nat Geo Wild’s Cesar 911, A&E’s The First 48 and TLC’s Four Weddings.
Calling ITV’s purchase of Leftfield “troubling” in a statement, Gebre said. “ITV freelance producers and associate producers have waited – literally for years – since winning their union election to see this company agree to even a modest healthcare plan. Yet ITV readily has the cash on hand for this historic purchase and predicts it will help their profits from day one.”
“The creative economy is important to New York City and we need to encourage its growth,” added Johnson in a statement. “But we don’t need to encourage the growth of a business model that takes advantage of a precarious freelance workforce, working people to their breaking point and then kicking them to the curb.”