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The debate on the french legal policy for film technicians

01/01/2012

Written by Sébastien Lachaussée

& Marta Monjanel

For many years, cinema’s producers and technicians were subject to the application of the National Collective labour agreement of technicians in film production (CCN), signed on April, 30, 1950, from the moment they became members of signatory unions. However, as a result of the dissolution, in 2007, of the union of producers named Chamber of Producers Films Union, which was the only producers’ union signatory of this Labour agreement, the technicians of Films and producers of Films want to negotiate in order to revise the agreement of 1950 and thereby create a new National Collective labour agreement. The revision of the CCN pits Union Producers (APC, SPI, UPF…) against Union Technicians (SNTPCT ; SNTR CCGT…). 

Despite the intervention of a joint and equal Commission directed by the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Culture has made Finance Inspector Antoine Gosset-Grainville, responsible for mediation in order to encourage the success of the new negotiation.

Since 2007, only wages have been subject to yearly reassessment, the last revision had extended the application of salary scale until December 31, 2011 but it hasn’t been signed by all Unions and as a consequence, it hasn’t been extended to all productions.

The legal framework

Lacking a new collective labour agreement, the CCN of April, 30, 1950 which has been revised, is still meant to govern the interprofessional relationships of production film’s technicians according to article 3 paragraph 2 of CCN signed on April, 30th, 1950 : « In case of notice by one or both contracting parties, the April 30, 1950 convention will be in force until the conclusion of a new agreement ».

Nevertheless, because this convention had never been extended by authorities, it applies only signatory unions. But, scales of salaries have been extended to all producers, and as a consequence, even the ones who weren’t members of signatory unions have to respect those scales.

Made up of 21 titles, the collective labour agreement of April, 30, 1950, according to article 1, settles relationships between « firms of Film Production » and « specialized technicians – including staff members of the staff employed by those firms ». The agreement applies to all films produced in whole or in part in France (which means metropolitan territory – DOM-TOM are excluded from this definition) or in foreign countries by a producer whose head office is in France. The April 30, 1950 agreement also governs French technicians working abroad for a French Producer. The language of the Film has no impact on the application of the agreement.

One of the most important contributions of the Agreement (title II qualifications), is to give a list of occupations involved in film production. It distinguishes the executive technicians in production (article 5) from production technicians. A distinction, which has consequence because the legal regime for executive technicians includes some specificities.

The main rules

Article 19 of the agreement states that « every engagement has to be the object of a written contract ». The requirement of a written contract, which has to be done in the first 48 hours following the appointment, protects the technician in a relationship intrinsically non-egalitarian between employee and employer. The probative value of a written contract favours the technician over the employers in the case of dispute. The written contract is all the more necessary in that missions entrusted to technicians are, in practice, of short duration, and the proof of their execution is difficult to establish.

Furthermore, a fixed term contract is specific for a certain type of jobs, it has to comprise compulsory mentions provided by article L1242-12 of labour French code, among them, there are: the designation of job, the enforceable national collective Labour Agreement and the term of trial period.

Article 21 states that « every special disposition of a contract that may be opposite to the dispositions of the collective labour agreement would be deemed void and non existing ». Contracts are subject to limitations of duration: day, week, year.
 
It has been established through disposition 41 of the Agreement that the duty of producers is to hire technicians before actual shooting time for films requiring the intervention of a technician. This time of preparation is paid at the same rate as work performed during the shooting and varies according to concerned occupations.

According to terms specified in articles 24 to 26 of the Agreement: in compensation, technicians have the duty to remain available to producers, in case of overrun of the duration initially provided for by the Contract. But here again technicians are protected; if the overrun is longer than to the pro-rata calculated - contingent on initial duration of contract - he can decide to « regain his freedom », but he will have to name a technician who will replace him.

The conditions of working life are enumerated in titles VII and those subsequent. For all feature films (« fiction films which are longer than 1800 meters), compulsory minima are provided by article 47 of the Agreement.

Titles VIII to XV provide conditions of working life for technicians and also compensatory damages to which they have a right. Those conditions differ in geographical area in which the shooting has been realised (geographical criteria), and time (temporal criteria): day of week, Sunday, public holiday, night… The geographical criteria is divided in two: geographical area, essentially the distance needed for travel and geographical description: place in which the shooting has been made : studio or in the field or outside. Both criteria are cumulative. The more difficult the demands placed on technicians (for example when the shooting is away from his residence, or takes place at night or during public holiday), the more he would enjoy compensatory damages.
Furthermore, the technician has a right to be informed concerning the knowledge of his conditions of work. The technician has the right to be reimbursed for expenses incurred for his transport or the transport of equipment, according again to the application of geographical criteria, which will determine the scope of the reimbursement.

Article 98 provides that in case of dispute between technician and producer, a compulsory procedure of conciliation would be put into action in front of a mixed inter-union commission which would take place within the 3 days following the seizure of an union for a dispute.

Concerning producers, they have the duty to rely on cinema’s technicians whose occupations are listed in the Agreement, every time the film would be broadcast in cinema.

Nevertheless, on March 23, 2007, APC broke the national collective labour agreement of April 30, 1950 in accordance with its article 3 paragraph 2.  Thus at the end of year 2008, trades of cinematographic production would have been in front of a legal vacuum if the producer’s union (APC) had given up immediately - bringing into play their reneging on. Indeed, APC decided to defer application of national collective labour agreement and minima salary scales. So, instead of its denunciation, the labour agreement has been deferred three times. In consequence, the renouncement seemed to be ineffective. However, at the end of the year 2011, the debate about a new labour agreement for the technicians of cinema was being revived. 

A renegotiation of the labour agreement in sight

Nevertheless, the signatories wouldn’t be the same that for the labour agreement of 1950 ; in latest negotiations, API is the only producer’s union open to negotiate with technician’s union. APC has put forward a draft agreement but it has been refused by all technician’s unions. Today, the draft of agreement presented by another producer’s union namely API, is at the center of the debate.

What will be the scope of application of the new national collective agreement?

Article 1 of Title II provides that from its enforcement, the new collective agreement will invalidate and  replace the national collective agreement of April 30, 1950 and also two others collective agreements concerning self-employed persons.

However this draft of agreement raises a problem about its applicability. In order for the new collective agreement to be extended to the whole profession of cinema, it has to be signed by two producer’s unions and two technician’s unions which have to be representatives up to the national standard. But today, only the Association of Independent Producers (API) which gathers together very important producers such as MK2, UGC, Gaumont and Pathé, is inclined to sign a new version of the collective agreement, APC and SPI are against it.

To circumvent the refusal of the producer’s unions, others than API, to sign this new collective agreement, technician’s unions want to ask Labour Direction to extend the agreement to all Films.

Nevertheless, we can be reasonably doubtful of the extension of the collective agreement from the moment that only one producer’s union had adhered to it. Let’s remember that the national collective labour agreement of 1950 hasn’t been extended and in consequence, unions which hadn’t signed it, haven’t been obligated to respect it.

This draft agreement would apply, as did the collective agreement of 1950, to French production companies, French technicians - independently of place of fulfilment, and also to foreign companies, which produce films on French territory.

What are the contributions of this draft agreement?

The draft agreement is divided into four titles and its scope is larger than the CCN of 1950. Title 1 is about common stipulations, the second title concerns technicians, Title 3 is for artistic staff and Title 4 is about permanent staff. The title in which we are interested is Title 2 which is itself divided into ten chapters. The content is similar to the CCN of 1950, but there are distinctions and novelties.

First of all, a derogatory regime has been established for movies appointed of diversity, which are on a tight budget. For this kind of film, the technicians will be paid less (750 euros for 39 hours per week), but in way of compensation, they will have the benefit of a profit-sharing scheme to exploit earnings of films which means a direct involvement in producer’s net income. This profit sharing scheme, defined by Addendum 3 of the draft agreement consists in differing one part of wage payment coupled with a compensatory increase. It’s important to underline that at the moment, this practice is considered to be illegal by the French Highest Court of Appeal (judgment of 16.09.2009). Article 1 of Addendum 3 sets cumulative criteria to determine whether a film can be considered as diverse; one of the criteria provides that the designation can be granted only if the projected budget is lower than 2,5 million euros. Films potentially intended for this designation should be presented to a joint commission, which will decide if they qualify for this denomination. It’s already been decided that only 20% of French initiative films, which fulfil the criteria, can be eligible to benefit by this regulation.

There are more titles and definitions of technician’s functions than in the collective agreement of 1950 and the list is more complete. But the innovation of the draft agreement is that chapter X concerns directors. Indeed, in the CCN of 1950, nothing is foreseen concerning the scale of salary for directors. This draft aims to define, both, functions and wages from the preparation of the film to its post-production - namely the delivery of the movie. This new collective agreement provides to stabilize director’s wages at 2000 euros per month independent of the length of the film (APC provided in its draft a digression of the director’s wage from the 5th month of work). This last chapter of Title II points out the conditions of appointment hiring and the type of contract, which corresponds, to functions exercised by the director as well as the amount and method of payment of minimum wage.

Another additional innovation of the draft agreement appears under article 30 Equivalence. Henceforth, the duration of workers presence on the shooting will take into account hours of effective work versus and slack period (excluding meals) during which the technicians won’t be paid.

The Association of Decorators is hostile to this draft agreement because of a stipulation, which provides that a producer may hire an “interior designer” who would be paid less than set designers. In consequence, they detect a threat to their profession and their compensation. On the eve of the end of the year, the draft agreement had been approved by a general meeting of directors SRF/CGT and by general meeting of workers and technicians CGT but no meeting of the joint mixed commission had been expected. Therefore, APC and UPF have decided to defer until December 31, 2012, once again, salary scale of the collective agreement of 1950 in order to avoid a legal vacuum.

While negotiations have seemed started again, their success risks to take more time than expected. In consequence, for the year 2012, until the signature of a new collective agreement, the enforceable law is still the CCN of 1950.

 

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