ITV is to stand federal trial in the U.S. in January in regards to an alleged violation of labor laws centering on a health insurance plan for employees.
The trial – scheduled for January 11 – follows a complaint issued by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the UK broadcaster’s production arm in the U.S., and comes after an NLRB investigation of charges brought about by the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE).
According to the union, ITV earlier this year implemented a health insurance plan over the objections of the WGAE, which is the collective bargaining representative of ITV’s writer-producers.
The guild says the NLRB determined that ITV violated its duty to bargain in good faith with the guild, and “unlawfully implemented the health plan and illegally dropped a monthly stipend the company had been paying to the union-represented employees.”
The broadcaster’s back-pay liability could exceed US$100,000, according to the WGAE.
The guild further notes that the health plan was “unappealing” to union-represented employees due to high premiums and few benefits. It maintains that only a few eligible employees enrolled in the plan.
“ITV has decided to spend an unfathomable amount of money on lawyers and a trial rather than simply honoring its obligation to bargain in good faith and reach an agreement with the WGAE,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of WGAE, in a statement. “For all the talk of ITV CEO Adam Crozier as a great strategist in the UK, his decision to fight the WGAE is a dead-end strategy in the U.S. His company’s refusal to bargain a reasonable contract has resulted in a federal trial.”
Responding to the news, an ITV spokesperson said, “We simply can’t agree to a settlement which puts the healthcare of our people in jeopardy.
“We are confident that we acted lawfully in offering health insurance to our employees and strongly refute the false claims by the WGAE that we have not been bargaining in good faith,” the spokesperson added.
“The union is well aware that we have been negotiating the terms of a collective bargaining agreement for a considerable period of time, and we have come to broad agreement on a wide range of topics such as paid time-off including holidays and vacation, wage minimums, as well as grievance and arbitration procedures.”
The news of ITV’s trial comes less than a month after writer-producers at the Leftfield Entertainment-owned Leftfield Pictures and Loud TV voted to unionize with WGAE.
The union, which first started organizing in non-fiction TV in 2010, also represents writer-producers at Original Media, Sharp Entertainment, ITV-owned Kirkstall Road Enterprises, Optomen Productions, Lion TV and Jane Street Entertainment.