Working to live

Minimum Wage. Living Wage. Family Wage. All terms about how much money we can get for our labour and how much money we need to live on. As you have probably heard or experienced, the National Minimum Wage is increasing to £6.08 in October of this year.

That means for a 40 hour week the pay would be £243.20. And as you can see by other articles in this issue, BECTU is really serious about ensuring that new entrants into the creative industries are not exploited with “internships” or “work experience” that entails working all the hours in the day for no pay, not even the Minimum Wage.

But when does a new entrant become a skilled professional? Particularly when we can show in case after case that new entrants are bringing skills from courses and training to their “internships” and that even six months or a year of “work experience” is not considered enough for a “skilled” grade.

This is part of the battle to ensure at least the minimum wage but BECTU’s minimum aim is a Living Wage.

A skilled professional should be able to get a Living Wage for the hours they work. The definition says that in developed nations, such as the United Kingdom, a Living Wage means that persons working a 40 hour week, with no additional income, should be able to afford decent housing, food, utilities, transport, health care and recreation.

Our industries have challenged this model for years but the pressures are increasing. For one thing the idea of a 40 hour week for most is a distant ‘historical’ practice.

Even for our permanently employed members the culture of presentism pushes the 40 hours up. And with ‘availability’ a big issue with job assessments, workers commitment’s to hours pushes most of us beyond 40 per week.

The hours issues is especially important to our members with family/caring responsibilities. Or even those that just want a life outside of their work commitments. I am sure it is why 5,000 women chose to leave the industry between 2006 and 2009 compared to 750 men.

I am sure that the number would be significantly less if the wages in our industry reached the dizzy heights of a Family Wage.

Family Wage is a concept that goes back to the 18th and 19th century when the model was of the nuclear family. The belief was that one wage should be able to raise a family. In the 18th century they figured out that when workers couldn’t get a Family Wage for their work, they delayed having families, had smaller ones, or none at all.

Leaving the wealthy to have the large ones. It is certainly a pattern I’ve seen among our freelance members and an issue raised at Women’s Conference.

I would argue that a Family Wage now means that our members should earn enough to support themselves and their family commitments. And that this would sustain many more of us in this industry.

We are a highly skilled group of people that work in exciting and challenging industries. The U.K. Film Council’s report “The Economic Impact of the UK Film Industry” says that in 2009 there were 36,000 of us working directly and 100,000 other jobs and that 58% of us were university educated.

Jobs and wages that support family responsibilities are jobs and wages that support a sustainable industry where skills don’t disappear, that maintain a quality of production that keeps the UK in the forefront of creative locations.

The UK Film Council reports that films depicting the UK generates around a tenth of the overseas tourism revenue, totaling around £1.9 billion a year in income.

The Arts Council has shown that theatres also generate a serious amount of income both within London and locally.

To sustain a vibrant and skilled community of workers in the creative industries we need for all to have wages that encourage our members at the different stages of their career life to believe “Hey I can make a life and a living out of this job”.

Categories: Arts, Broadcasting, Film, Theatre


Picture of Christine Bond