Neighbors conclude amid dispute that crew were denied severance payments

Neighbors are ending production after 37 years next week, but the longtime team that makes the iconic show say production company Fremantle have refused to pay them the redundancy.

The Australian soap opera, which launched the international careers of countless local stars including Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Margot Robbie and Guy Pearce, was axed earlier this year after Britain’s Channel 5 announced it would not would buy the program anymore. After failing to find another UK broadcaster to share the cost of making the show, it was announced the show would end – but the team, including one who has been there since the soap opera’s very first episode, says she has been treated. wrong.

“They had Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan came to shoot scenes recentlywhich is great,” Paul Stanley, an organizer with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance union, told Guardian Australia.

“It’s cool, but there are people who work here who took eight weeks off last year to ‘save the show’. You say you can’t pay us layoffs and yet you invest money. money in talent.

Broadcast by Channel 10 and produced by Australia’s Fremantle, Neighbors has been heavily funded by Channel 5 since 2008, with the residents of Ramsay Street attracting more viewers in the UK than in their home country.

Neighbors shop stewards said they have met with Fremantle leaders on several occasions over the past few months to discuss the ‘devastating impact the show’s cancellation has had on the long-serving team’, which numbers around 100 employees, including casting directors, costume designers, directors, stage managers, make-up artists, researchers, screenwriters, set designers and producers.

Union sources say Fremantle argues the workers are not employees but contractors and therefore not entitled to normal employee standards, even though their contracts have been renewed every year for years.

Although the cast and crew of Neighbors worked during the pandemiclast year they were asked to step down without pay for eight weeks to “save the show” when it became unclear where the funding was coming from.

Donovan and Minogue, who played Scott and Charlene in the 1980s, will return after more than 30 years for the show’s finale in August.

“Fremantle tries to avoid paying the crew who have been loyal to the production, in some cases for decades, under the guise of ‘fixed-term’ contracts,” the union told members in a bulletin after the end of the show.

“The company responded by extending the time it had given the crew to accept lower payments to allow time for negotiations. Members will continue to work together over the coming weeks to ensure they receive their rights.

“This week Fremantle reported a 25% increase in revenue in 2021 to $2.9 billiona strong contributor to parent company RTL Group’s record profit.

Channel 5, which is owned by US media giant Paramount, has also expects record profits aft of locking boom in viewing. She decided to reallocate her budget to more original programs following the success of shows such as the revival of All Creatures Great and Small and said the redundancy terms were an issue for the production company: “Neighbors is produced by Fremantle Australia and we are unable to comment on their HR issues.”

A crew member who worked on the Neighbors for three decades said he was really disappointed with Fremantle: “Some of us have been here for about 30 years and they just say they don’t recognize the service. ,” he said.

“They always make it look like at Neighbors we’re all family, but then it’s the end of the show, which is obviously sad, and they turn around and say ‘well, you’re not entitled to any benefits.’ So it’s kind of frustrating and disappointing.

Fremantle Australia chief executive Greg Woods did not respond to questions from Guardian Australia, but said the company had met its legal obligations.

“To safeguard the well-being of our cast and crew, who are our primary concern, and with just over a week into production, we will not be providing detailed commentary at this time,” Woods said. “Also, as part of company policy, we also do not provide feedback on HR-related matters.

“However, I can confirm that we have sought external advice to ensure that we provide the necessary support and that we respect everyone’s legal rights and fully meet our obligations.

“Our priority is and will continue to be to support the well-being of our cast and crew as production looms next Friday.”

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Stanley says the crew includes people who have worked seven to 10+ years, down to one crew member who refers to himself as “Patient Zero Neighbors” because he’s been there from the start. – “it’s basically your entire professional life”.

“They were initially offered a four-week ‘special leave termination’ if they had been there for more than 12 months in addition to furlough leave and their paid annual leave,” Stanley said.

“We had a meeting with Fremantle and we got up to eight weeks for some people, which helps. Nine-year-old employees are entitled to 16 weeks of redundancy, but they are offered eight.

While some staff accepted the deal, others resisted, saying “it’s not fair, it’s not fair,” Stanley said. “They want industry film crews to be treated better.”

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