From the TUC

Joining a union kickstarted Louise’s TV career – #heartunions

11 Feb 2017, By

8th – 14th February 2017 is #heartunions week, celebrating the great work unions do, and paying tribute to the reps who are an important part of that. The Unsung Heroes series is running all week, sharing stories from reps and members about how being part of their union has impacted their lives.

After realising at a young age that she wanted to work in TV, Louise Jenkins from Swansea has been supported by CULT Cymru, and joined BECTU.

“I was offered a work experience placement with an outside broadcast company covering rugby matches. In the beginning I was just really pleased to be getting the experience and they paid my expenses. But as time went on, I was doing more and more without pay. It reached the point where it wasn’t work experience anymore. I knew that I should be paid for what I was doing but I wasn’t sure how to approach it. It was pretty much my first experience of the industry and I felt nervous about raising the issue with my boss.”

“A friend gave me the contact details for BECTU as they thought joining a union might help. That is how I first met Siân , she sat down with me and helped me to write a letter to the manager of the company explaining why I felt I should be paid for what I was doing– she helped me word it properly. I got a really good outcome from it as they agreed to pay me!”

After getting support from her union in a time of need, Louise realised that there were lots of training and career development opportunities available through BECTU – ranging from social media, selling yourself, freelancing and health and safety.

“When you don’t have work coming in you feel a bit low, like you’re not worth anything, but doing the courses made me feel better about myself and more confident about getting work. All that time I was sending out emails and CVs constantly but initially was not getting any answers so doing these courses made me feel like I was improving something at least, even if I wasn’t doing the actual job….and I made some good contacts from the courses too. The courses were highly subsidised which made them affordable for me, as I wouldn’t have been able to do them otherwise.

“Since doing them, I’ve been able to get more paid work. I’m currently working as a Camera Assistant on a new Amazon Prime series called The Collection, filming at Bay Studios in Swansea and in France.

“I’ve worked on other TV series, including Hinterland and Doctor Who, which has been amazing especially when we got to film inside the Tardis. Hinterland was brilliant because we were filming outside in beautiful locations and the cast and crew were really nice and good fun – there was a real sense of community…and Doctor Who was just amazing as I’ve been a huge fan since I was a kid.”

Louise is proud to have paid work coming in, as she knows that a big problem in the creative industries is breaking in.

“I am really proud that I am getting the paid work coming in now because I feel that I am actually turning this into a fully-fledged career. It hasn’t been easy because it is such a difficult industry to get a foothold into unless you know someone. So often, the ones that are coming in new by themselves like I did are quite vulnerable to being exploited.

Because it is a creative industry, the job is fun so people want to do it and unfortunately some people take advantage of that and expect people to work without pay. But doing the courses, getting the support from CULT Cymru, BECTU and other people I’ve worked with in the industry, being part of the union – it gives you the confidence to say I deserve to be paid. You see your own worth.”

Louise has been supported by Siân Gale of BECTU through its Welsh Government funded union-led learning project CULT Cymru. Sian has wonderful things to say about Louise’s nature and perseverance.

“Louise is a lovely and determined young woman. Rather than pull up the drawbridge behind her in what is a very competitive sector, she is encouraging and supporting others by sharing information on training and productions.  As trade unionists we particularly want to support those without access to industry networks in particular women, people from BAME backgrounds and disabled people who often lack the confidence and essential business skills needed to get the jobs that they deserve, it’s great when like Louise they are happy to take on the baton and help others.

“The industry has changed drastically over the last 20 years with a move from permanent, secure jobs in large organisations such as the BBC and ITV, to less secure fixed term contracts or freelance work. New entrants are particularly vulnerable as recruitment practices are largely informal and dependent on who rather than what you know.  Young people entering the industry are expected to work unpaid, with women tending to work for free for longer than their male counterparts. As a union BECTU is keen to ensure that new entrants, regardless of their background, have an opportunity to develop sustainable careers and to receive fair treatment at work.”

Louise recommends that all young workers in creative industries join a union.

“Definitely be part of the union. The team at BECTU/CULT Cymru are really lovely people and you can talk to them about anything. They always want to know what you are interested in and are willing to help you with any problems or learning needs.”

“So that’s it really: the main thing is to work hard and enjoy the job. Oh, and try not to geek out too much if you get to go on the Tardis!”

The big aim for #heartunions week is to encourage more people to join a union. Please share this page with friends, colleagues and neighbours. If we each get one person to join a union this week, we’ll be well on the way to getting a better deal for working people all year round.

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