In November 2019, a group of Oasis animators became Canada’s first-ever accredited animation union. Now, members of six other departments at the studio will join them in the Oasis Animation Workers Union. The studio produces animation for series including F is for Family, Arthur, and Caillou.
Comp, rigging, scene planning, storyboards, and layout and color workers voted in favor of unionizing last week. Organization towards the vote began in earnest in fall 2021, with workers in those departments feeling left out from the animators’ good fortunes after they voted to unionize two years prior.
Around 35 new members work in these departments, joining the existing 20 Quebec-based animators who were already part of the union.
“Our full name is ’Le Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs d’Oasis Animation,’ which means the workers at Oasis, not just the animators, and for the first two years of our existence, this has been a lie,” union president Calvin Brett explained to Cartoon Brew. “But I am happy to announce that is no longer the case!”
Brett added, “Since we first started organizing our union back in the summer of 2019, we had always wanted this to be a union not just for the animators, but for all the workers at Oasis, and this latest addition to the union does a good deal to change that.”
Super excited to announce that 6 more departments (Comp, Rigging, Scene Planning, Storyboards, Layout and Colour) at Oasis submitted cards to join our union last month, and have just been officially added to our union!
— STT Oasis Animation-CSN (@OasisAnimUnion) April 29, 2022
The workers are affiliated with the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (Confederation of National Trade Unions, or CSN), giving them access to resources and support from the much larger organization, while remaining largely autonomous in their decisionmaking.
According to Brett, a key factor amongst those casting their ballots was inflation. Non-union workers’ raises were well below the 6% increase in inflation over the past year, resulting in something akin to a pay cut for those employees. The money they were earning, while more than the previous year, was buying them less.
It helped that those workers who unionized in 2019 spoke emphatically in favor of their decision. Over time, those unionized employees have seen a 10-25% pay raise, yearly increases adjusted for inflation, priority call-back list for members, codified vacation time, and more.
Even though that group organized in 2019, it wasn’t until they held demonstrations in April 2021 that they were able to strike a deal that led to pay increases, recognition of seniority at the studio, and transparency around worker evaluations.
“Every worker deserves a union, no matter what industry, and we are so happy to have our new members join us in improving our conditions,” said Brett. “As the first union in animation in our country, and the only one in Quebec (for now!) we highly encourage others to contact us, their co-workers, union centrals, etc., and start conversations about forming a union and starting the fight for better conditions.”
In recent months, production-side animation workers in the U.S. have also made new strides in union organization, with five such groups joining The Animation Guild. Editorial employees at Bento Box Entertainment also voted to unionize with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and its post-production local, the Motion Picture Editors Guild.