For immediate release:
Unifor Local 2000 is celebrating a B.C. Employment Standards Branch decision that will see animators paid overtime, following the union’s complaint about working conditions at Vancouver’s Nitrogen Studios.
“We’re extremely pleased with the decision,” said Jennifer Moreau, secretary-treasurer at Local 2000. “It means people will be paid properly, and studios will have to think twice before claiming their employees are high-tech and ineligible for overtime.”
Unifor filed the complaint more the two years ago, following public allegations that non-union animators working on the film Sausage Party were not paid overtime. (The allegations surfaced in the comments section of an online article about the film.) The B.C. Employment Standards Branch ruling requires the studio to open its books and pay any outstanding overtime along with a $500 fine. The branch also determined that Nitrogen, now owned by Cinesite, was not eligible for the high technology exclusion, which allows companies to avoid paying overtime.
The high-tech exclusion is a rarely tested loophole that exempts workers classified as high-technology professionals from Employment Standards Act rules on hours of work, overtime and statutory holidays.
Vancouver’s animation, visual effects and gaming studios often cite the high-tech exclusion to keep staff working long hours while not paying overtime.
In response to the Sausage Party complaint, Cinesite claimed it didn’t have to pay overtime in accordance with the Employment Standards Act because its employees were high technology professionals developing information systems. The branch’s investigating officer ruled the exclusion did not apply to workers whose primary job was using commercially available software to create visual effects.
Not one studio in Vancouver is unionized, something Local 2000 is trying to change.
“If we can do this for non-union workers, imagine what animators could do if they unionized and negotiated their own contract,” Moreau said.
Unifor Local 2000 represents approximately 700 media and chocolate workers.
For further comment, contact Jennifer Moreau at 604-816-5204.
Click here for the full decision: Nitrogen Studios:Cinesite Vancouver
Click here for the B.C. Government’s factsheet on High Technology Companies