Films and TV series, jobs are increasingly precarious

Films and TV series, jobs are increasingly precarious

Films and TV series

Who works behind all the TV series, movies, music clips and commercials? Our days are increasingly filled with these video products and the entire audiovisual sector is growing: from streaming platforms to the Italian audience behind the screen, as well as everyday employees behind the scenes. Precisely the latter however – that is all those who work on the sets, from the cameramen to the audio and sound technicians, up to the authors, actors and screenwriters – cannot always be satisfied. On the contrary, between unenforced contracts and low wages, the number of precarious freelancers is growing.

Witnessing this is the research Behind the scenes, Survey on self-employment in the audiovisual and book publishing sector, edited by Sergio Bologna, Anna Soru, Mattia Cavani and Silvia Gola, created for Acta, an association deals with the rights and means of self-employment. The history of the audiovisual world is, above all, that of a sector undergoing profound change, which in the last 10-15 years has faced the complete transition from analogue to digital tools. Professions have changed, new ones have arisen, there are fewer barriers to starting a job young, with easier-to-use tools and faster, cheaper methods.

Entertainment workers

For each video cultural product there are dozens of workers involved, from the workers (set, audio, sound and lighting technicians as well as costumes and of the scene) to cognitive workers (authors, actors, screenwriters, dubbers, subtitlers), who enjoy different professional frameworks. However, they are all show business workers by law. And as such, they can join the Fpls - Entertainment workers' pension fund (formerly Enpals, merged into Inps since 2011), which guarantees protection in access to welfare, such as pension, maternity, sickness and unemployment. But this does not always happen: from the interviews with the workers conducted by Acta (more than 50) emerge more and more difficulties in finding signed contracts, clear and defined wages - instead even down by 50% -, proportionality of salaries to the activities carried out, continuity of work.

The contracts, when there are, are many and diversified: the main ones are seven, each with ten levels of remuneration (from around 1,100 euros a month to just over 2,200). Above all, the existing collective agreements define the minimum number of days to receive the allowance - all the more necessary when work continuity is not ensured - with certification obligations by the employer, and per diems for travel. But from the interviews it emerges that the large number of different collective agreements does not help understanding and certainty of the law and many workers (34%) admit that not all the activities carried out are actually involved in the agreement, conflict is constantly created on the minimum days established for benefits, there is an abuse of fixed-term contracts.

Self-employed workers

Self-employment is growing due to authorial work. According to the research, in order to work, the number of workers willing to accept reduced wages is increasing in the sector, even without signing a contract. In this way, in Acta's words, a real "escape from the former Enpals" takes place. The first effect is that the contribution to be paid, in this way, falls almost exclusively on the worker. In fact, in order not to fall under the umbrella of the former Enpals, it is enough to join a different social security fund, as often happens to members of the artisan fund (the possession of a video camera is enough for a videomaker to become a "sole proprietorship"): the worker with a VAT number is treated as a company and the work is subcontracted to him. Or, it often happens that the work is entrusted to external services or production agencies, which in turn appoint independent professionals, or to natural persons or associations. In this sense, the production of social content is also frequent, which however suffers from poor regulation in terms of contracts.

Furthermore, for authors, actors, interpreters, directors, screenwriters and producers, copyright fees should apply (similarly to writers and translators on the publishing market): these enjoy reduced taxation and , for those enrolled in the Fpls, also to contributions paid by the employer. They are calculated on values ​​based on network parameters and time slots (for TV) or for replicas reproduced (on the platform): values ​​that are often defined as "old-fashioned" by the interviewees and moreover difficult to negotiate. In this regard, private streaming platforms - which do not have public share controls on their data - have an obligation of transparency and periodic communication of their diffusion, according to the European directive 790 of 2019 on copyright (implemented in Italy in November 2021), to adjust a remuneration proportionate to the actual economic value of the work to authors and artists.

From analogue to digital

The digital means used today are much cheaper than to those of the past decades, the workers interviewed recall, and their ease of use, the possibility of doing it remotely, have reduced the costs for sharing materials online, for modification and correction (now almost instantaneous). To make themselves more available then, it happens today that videomakers, for example, also lend themselves to work as operators, editors and directors of the same works.

“ The growth of digitization on the one hand facilitates the progressive autonomy of employees , with a process further intensified with smart-working, but on the other hand it favors the outsourcing of functions and the growth of non-employee contractual forms, even going beyond national borders - says Anna Soru, economic researcher and president of Acta -. Our welfare system of rights was born and was modeled for dependent work and is inadequate to cover the needs of these workers, who do not have the bargaining power to deal with employers and are defenseless against compensation pressures, as well as with little or no protection in non-work situations.

It is not easy to count all the employees in the sector, even for the different positions. According to Istat data cited in the research, 2020 was a year of employment growth in the audiovisual sector, especially during the lockdown period: around 32,000 people are employed in video production, the weight of post-production is more limited (less than 5,000 workers) and television programming and broadcasting (13,000 employees). Similarly, the data on the sector in the Symbola Foundation report, which also adds up the employees of the music sector, come to count 58,300 in the year of the pandemic. The general numbers increase if we read the INPS surveys, which however count among the workers anyone who has carried out at least one day of paid employment: in 2021 the number of entertainment workers is over 312 thousand, with an average annual salary of just over 10 thousand euro, with an average of 86 days paid per year.

Meanwhile, the audiovisual market is experiencing a season of success: according to estimates by the European audiovisual observatory, the revenues from over-the- top companies on the European continent went from 388 million euros in 2010 to over 11 billion in 2020. In the Italian context, the latest AGCOM report in August estimates a further growth in subscriptions to online services of the platforms: 16 million in March 2022.

Between trade unions and politics

Lastly, the study shows that the role of traditional trade unions (such as Slc Cgil, Fistel Cisl, Uilcom Uil), which also maintain the reins of collective bargaining and operate with stable interlocutors (above all Anica, the association of film industries that adheres to Confindustria). To confirm this awareness there is also a 2017 study by the CGIL.

On the other hand, getting organized is not easy. “ It is difficult, and as Acta we have experienced it, to organize social alliances of very different interests in the name of a common social purpose. In particular, self-employed workers have heterogeneous conditions that lead to strong individualization, they are not used to acting collegially and to adopting a collective point of view – Anna Soru continues -. The path we are following is that of working on two levels, one sectoral to try to build a collective identity among workers who share the same activity and to address specific problems and in particular the definition of parameters on compensation (as Redacta does), and an intersectoral one in which to continue to carry on the great battles on welfare and rights. At the same time, we also question and intervene on general issues such as the legal minimum wage and extra-curricular internships, because only with a broader view is it possible to understand what the job market is today."

In recent years, new forms of association have arisen or emerged to offer answers to the precariousness of the sector system (such as 100 Authors,, Fice, Agici, Scena Unita, Associazione Bauli in piazza, la Musica che gira , and experiments of cooperative platforms, such as Smart and Doc Servizi). Politics then moved on the wave of the protest of cultural workers in the pandemic: the parliamentary process that began in January 2021 led in July 2022 to approve the Spettacolo decree law, which commits the government to legislate as soon as possible according to precise directions. Among these, the text imposes the creation of a discontinuity allowance, a sort of subsidy for periods without a contract, such as the drafting of a new Entertainment Code and the establishment of a dedicated Observatory at the Ministry of Culture.

While waiting for news on this front, in the last few months the European Commission has also taken action, which on 29 September published new guidelines for the application of European competition law, indicating that even freelance (“ self-employed ”) will be able to resort to collective bargaining, if they find themselves in a situation comparable to employees (“ workers ”).

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