One month ago, Cartoon Brew broke the news that the global vfx producer DNEG was planning to impose pay cuts on all staff earning more than more than £35,000 (USD$42,845). BECTU, the union that represents the U.K.’s media and entertainment sectors, publicly condemned the implementation of the policy. It is now claiming a partial reversal, which Cartoon Brew has confirmed with DNEG and its production partner Locksmith Animation.
In a statement, the union says that DNEG has partly reversed its plan, and at least some staff in this pay grade will continue to receive their full salary. The union claims that staff working in DNEG’s feature animation division in London will be paid 95% of their salary by the company, with the remaining 5% paid as a project “completion bonus” by business partners.
BECTU alleges that staff were initially pressured to accept pay cuts of 20%–25%, and that many still are. DNEG confirmed that it was asking staff to take the cuts, but has not commented on specific numbers. It attributed the policy to disruption caused by the coronavirus, and previously told Cartoon Brew that affected employees will receive some compensation through equity.
DNEG declined to comment for this article, but it has confirmed that a production partner on a specific project has offered a salary top-up and completion bonus to employees working on that project, which some (but not all) accepted. It added that around 96% of London staff have accepted the salary reduction proposal.
The company’s first feature animation project is Ron’s Gone Wrong, a forthcoming film produced with the young London studio Locksmith Animation, which confirmed to Cartoon Brew that it is the partner in question. A spokesperson said:
Locksmith are in the final few months of production on their first animated feature working in the DNEG pipeline. The producers’ first priority is retention of their fantastic crew of talent to completion, in an animation market which remains uniquely competitive during the Covid crisis. Working with DNEG, Locksmith therefore allocated budget funds to support salaries to help to achieve these ends.
More than the pay cuts themselves, BECTU has criticized DNEG for trying to impose them quickly, without giving staff the time and information needed to understand why the policy is necessary. Paul Evans, the union’s assistant national secretary, tells Cartoon Brew that the company is taking advantage of the fact that staff are working from home and not talking to each other as much as usual. Yet he believes that tensions are coming to a head: “Talking to a large number of people in all departments at DNEG, the mood is pretty close to ‘open revolt.'”
DNEG insists that it has provided employees with ample details and organized more than 25 global webinars at which staff were able to discuss the matter with management. A collective grievance has been signed by 169 employees; BECTU says that the company has yet to formally respond. “They refused to talk to the union point blank, and they are obfuscating on the grievance,” says Evans.