|sent from: Esher, Surrey, UK. destination: Wellington, New Zealand|
I was talking to a group of vfx artists who have accepted work offers with conditions that, if not illegal, come very close. At least they are questionable. Let’s call these people The Flintstones. Coincidentally, I was talking to another collection of vfx artists who lost their jobs in a recent company closure and allege, at least privately, that they are owed several months of unpaid salary and other payments. These guys are The Rubbles.
When, in trying to encourage The Flintstones not to accept the stated conditions unquestioningly, I pointed out the Rubbles and what happened to them. The answer I got back: “What’s that got to do with me?”
I’ve told both groups to seek legal advice. Without pause they reply the same. “No. We’re afraid of not getting another job, of being labelled troublemakers.” What harm is there, I argued, in arming yourselves with information, in knowing what your legal rights are? “No, I’m afraid. Why would the companies break that law? And what can I do about it?”
No one wants to stick their neck out, they want their problems solved by someone with a magic wand, in a way that brings no risk to themselves. They’d rather give thousands to companies in lost wages or free OT than spend a fraction of that on real help. Why would a company break the law? Because it can. Opportunity. Ignorance, even? Never attribute to malice what can be adequately expained by incompetence. Who knows? It will not correct itself unless people stand up for themselves.
One of the Rubbles said that, in the wake of the closure, he was considering leaving vfx. It is possible that as the market seems to be contracting, the right answer for many people will be to look elsewhere for future career prospects. That is a different and separate question than fighting for fair treatment, no matter what the industry. Don’t let yourself just be someone who is exploited in multiple industries, not just one.
Evolve your thinking, even if Barney and Fred are unable to.