BBC and ITV drama series threatened with strike action over pay dispute

Call the Midwife, a BBC drama that features child actors. Photo: BBC/ Neal Street Productions
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Production staff working on series such as Silent Witness, Mr Selfridge and Call the Midwife have threatened to disrupt filming through industrial action over pay.

Backstage union BECTU is preparing to ballot members to establish the level of support for the union’s claim for a £300 daily rate for grips – technicians who build, operate and supervise equipment to mount cameras. The issue, according to the union, has been “brewing for some months now”.

Martin Spence, assistant general secretary at BECTU, said: “Members in our grips branch, all of whom work freelance, have not received regular pay increases for years. Now is the time for a much overdue review but so far our claim is meeting with resistance. It’s time for the employers’ ridiculous penny-pinching to stop”.

The union, which argues that the current going rate for grips has been £250 a day for “some years”, also alleges that the BBC and ITV are using grips from South Africa and Hungary at extra cost to the taxpayer to undermine the UK’s grips’ claims.

Gerry Morrissey, BECTU general secretary, said: “This is a blatant waste of the licence fee payers' money. What is clear is that this dispute is not about affordability but about a clear policy of stifling the legitimate claims of UK crew”.

A spokesman for the BBC said: "This is an industry-wide issue and BBC Drama Production has a meeting scheduled in May to discuss freelance pay under the recognition agreement."

ITV had not responded as The Stage went to press.

BECTU members will be balloted between April 22 and May 8.

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