Field Representative Leslie Simmons shares some advice about questions members should ask when they’re getting hired at a studio signed to a TAG agreement.
First and foremost, there is certain information the studio is obligated to share with you upon hiring. In the most recent TAG Master Agreement, the Union and studios came to an agreement to share more information than what was previously required. Therefore, the Producer/Studio must provide written confirmation of employment, such as in a Personal Services Contract/Agreement or in an offer letter or email. This written confirmation must include:
- Job Title – This is whatever the studio is calling your position.
- Occupation Code – This is the code in the TAG Master Agreement associated with the job title the studio is listing you under.
- Wage Scale Classification name – This is the name that corresponds with the Occupation Code in the TAG contract and usually includes whether you’re at “Journey” or “1st 6 months” etc.
Example: A member is hired as an “Animation Supervisor” under the TAG Master Agreement. The studio should not only provide the member with that title, but also the Occupation Code, 21-012, and the Wage Scale Classification name, Animator – Journey plus 15% (per the footnote for supervisors in that classifi cation). In addition to this required information, here are some other questions to consider asking when being hired. (I’m focusing on TAG’s Master Agreement. Those working under separate agreements should review information in that contract.)
- Are you on a 40-hour work week, or are you being classified as “On-Call” (with 60 hours contributed to MPI each week)? Weekly employees on a 40-hour week are eligible for approved overtime. On-Call employees, usually supervisors, are “exempt” and do not receive overtime during their five-day work week. (As a reminder, all members, whether they’re On-Call or weekly or hourly and even in some freelance situations, are eligible for 6th and 7th day pay if working beyond a five-day work week.)
- Is this a show being produced under Sideletter N— the New Media sideletter?
- If so, which budget tier does this show fall under? Minimums are reduced per Sideletter N based on their budget tier, when the production commenced, and some other factors.
- If you’re working on a New Media project that falls under the section where terms of employment are “freely negotiable,” this means you must negotiate with the studio for a variety of things, including rate, holiday and vacation pay, and Dismissal Pay. The recent TAG Master Agreement removed the “freely negotiable” language from this sideletter, but only for productions that were not in play prior to Aug. 1, 2022.
- What are the set work hours?
- Who should you contact to request overtime or working a 6th/7th day?
- If freelance, what is the procedure for turning in invoices and getting paid? And confi rm that your rate of pay is 18% above the minimum. For New Media projects, the freelance rates also get a discounted bump. Please review the TAG contract footnotes in Sideletter N regarding freelance and New Media.
- How do you access your paystubs? Plan ahead and download each one. Sometimes members do not have access to Cast & Crew or Entertainment Partners when their job ends.
Some additional pieces of advice:
- When getting ready for layoff and leaving a studio, ask whether Dismissal Pay is automatic or if you have to request it. Who should you contact to request it in the event you do not receive it?
- Document everything. When having conversations with supervisors/producers/the studio HR about your position, document what was discussed and send them an email to confirm what was discussed.
- When preparing to leave a studio, save important emails to your personal account in case you need to refer to them at a later time. Download your paystubs, hiring paperwork, etc.
By just asking and doing these things, you are creating a record that can assist you and the Union should future outreach with the studio regarding your employment be needed.