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The Writers Guild of America, East, has filed unfair labor practice charges against Kirkstall Road Enterprises at the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the U.K.-owned television production company has failed to bargain in good faith and has violated federal labor law, the union announced on Monday. Kirkstall Road is a unit of ITV Studios America, a guild spokesman said.
The union said the charges stem from “ITV’s unilateral decision to slash Guild-represented employees’ compensation by $300 a month and to implement a health insurance plan with deductibles so high that employees would never get paid any actual benefits except if they were hospitalized for long periods (and even then they would pay many thousands of dollars out of their own pockets).” According to the union, this health plan is much worse, and costs employees much more ($130/month), than what ITV had previously said it was willing to offer — “a complete step backward,” said a guild spokesman.
“We have negotiated contracts with other employers doing the same work that provide better benefits to their writer-producers, and those employers pay far more of the cost of coverage,” said Lowell Peterson, WGA East executive director. “And those benefits are locked in by enforceable collective bargaining agreements that also guarantee minimum compensation levels, paid time off, holidays and other basic rights like union security and a grievance and arbitration provision. It is incomprehensible that ITV thinks it can cut pay, violate federal labor law and stiff-arm the Writers Guild while still proposing to expand its presence in the U.S. television market.”
ITV did not comment.
Earlier in the month, Neil Patrick Harris said in a tweet that that his upcoming ITV/NBC variety show “will absolutely be crafted by union writers,” but a guild spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday that “ITV is continuing to fight against us at the bargaining table” and that there was no deal regarding Harris’ show “at this time.”
“We’re thankful for [Harris’] support of the union,” the spokesman added.
The union and the production company have been engaged in talks for four years but have been unable to reach an agreement. Government officials on both sides of the pond have weighed in, with British Member of Parliament Helen Goodman, the Shadow Minister for Culture, the Creative Industries and Communications, having recently written to ITV CEO Adam Crozier expressing concern about ITV’s refusal to follow standard U.S. labor practices.
The union has reached agreements in the last two years with nonfiction companies Sharp Entertainment, Optomen and Lion Television, and is currently negotiating with Original Media.
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