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Former Property Brothers producer Cineflix Media has settled a 2018 class-action lawsuit over claims freelancing Canadian factual and reality TV workers were denied proper pay, job security and benefits.
On Monday, IATSE and CWA Canada, a major media union, said they and law firm Cavaluzzo LLP had settled the lawsuit for $2.5 million after three years of negotiations. The suit was brought by Cavaluzzo LLP on behalf of hundreds of current and former workers hired by Cineflix Media over claims they had been denied overtime and vacation pay and holiday premiums.
Toronto-based TV production worker Anna Bourque, who was named as the sole plaintiff in the lawsuit and worked on the sixth season of Property Brothers, told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that Canadian workers on local film and scripted TV productions are covered by union agreements with IATSE, NABET and other guilds.
Reality TV workers in Canada are classified as independent contractors and are denied minimum pay and labor standards. Picture editors and story editors routinely work against tight deadlines to turn hundreds of hours of footage into Canada-made factual and reality TV shows that air and stream worldwide.
“I think it could be the best result for all workers,” Bourque said in a statement after the agreement to settle the class-action lawsuit was announced on Monday. Cineflix chose to pay $2.5 million to the freelancer workers, rather than pay $1 million and sign a collective agreement, the unions said.
The settlement does not preclude Cineflix workers from forming a union and negotiating a collective agreement. Representatives for Cineflix Media were not available for comment.
The market for Canadian factual and reality TV series is strong, especially for local versions of international formats like The Amazing Race, Big Brother and The Bachelor, as domestic broadcasters battle against Netflix and other U.S. streaming services for viewer attention.
Canadian broadcasters have traditionally given their best primetime slots to U.S. network versions of Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Big Brother, The Voice and The Amazing Race, and typically air local versions of the international formats as summer fare, or between seasons for American versions to retain audience interest.
For local workers on the Canadian format versions, reduced license fees paid by domestic broadcasters means indie reality TV producers continue to hire freelancers who are cheaper and more flexible as they work long hours and against tighter deadlines to deliver episodes to air.
Drew and Jonathan Scott, the identical twins and popular hosts of HGTV’s Property Brothers, acquired the series brand and all related IP rights from longtime producer Cineflix in 2019.
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