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Unpaid extra wins fight for minimum wage

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An extra who successfully secured minimum wage from four film production companies that had hired him on a no-fee basis is urging other performers to “stand up” to organisations that try to avoid paying them.

Despite signing agreements with each of the companies saying the work he was doing would not be paid, Nick Thomas-Webster successfully secured payment from three of the employers simply by invoicing them after the shoots. He won £500.10 from the fourth after he made a claim to an employment tribunal.

He is now urging other performers who take jobs that are advertised as unpaid to challenge the production companies concerned and demand to be paid the minimum wage.

The background artist said because the National Minimum Wage is legislation, organisations cannot make themselves exempt from it and have to pay, even if a performer has signed documents that appear to waive their rights to a fee.

“Production companies try to get away with it because extras are too afraid to speak out. I was told I would not work again [if I did] but I have. Stand up to them – they know they are in the wrong,” he said.

The extra said he had deliberately accepted work from the four companies concerned last year, so he could pursue payment from them under the National Minimum Wage.

“I became aware there were an awful lot of unpaid posts being advertised and I thought the only way to do something about this was to get into the films, work unpaid and then take tribunal action,” he told The Stage.

However, three of the companies Thomas-Webster worked for paid him “without a fight” when he issued them with invoices. He then made a claim to an employment tribunal about the fourth’s refusal to pay him. This resulted in the company concerned, Press On Feature Limited, being forced to pay £500.10, which covered 70 hours’ work at the minimum rate of £5.93 and travel expenses of £85, following a tribunal at the end of last year.

Thomas-Webster said other supporting artists should follow his lead and challenge employers by invoicing them for the number of hours they have worked and making a claim to a tribunal if no money is paid.

He described making a claim to an employment tribunal as straightforward and said a case could always be withdrawn should a payment subsequently be made. He added that Equity would offer support to any member who wanted to know how to go about making a claim.

Thomas-Webster also said a Facebook page telling actors how to take action had been set up.

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