We made this film to support local government workers campaign for a decent pay rise. This film received nearly 170,000 hits on YouTube.
After weeks of working on the frontline risking their lives, and the lives of their families too, to keep communities safe, streets clean and loved ones cared for – the very least they deserve is a decent pay rise.
We were honoured to be asked to make documentaries for Unite exploring how the union had responded to the pandemic. Followng Zoom interviews with regional secretaries, we were tasked with gathering stories from across our regions and nations, of union members and reps from frontline of the pandemic. These stories (over 40 of them) are an important record of the union response to the pandemic and will be something for the unions archives.
We began our film journey in London at the Covid Wall on Workers Memorial Day, with Bereaved Families for Justice, who were calling for a national enquiry into the handling of the pandemic. Here we learned that a shocking 56 bus drivers in London had lost their lives to covid while serving the public on the buses. We interviewed amongst others, Leshie Chandrapala, the daughter of bus driver and Unite member Ranjit Chandrapala, who lost his life to Covid-19. This was a heartbreaking story. You can watch it in our film.
The story of bus drivers and the pandemic did not end here. We also interviewed Sajid Fazal ‘Faz’ from Leicester who sadly lost his brother during the pandemic. In addition to driving buses during the pandemic, which he found terrifying, he cleaned the buses at night when eight cleaners went down with covid. Bus drivers like Faz kept the country on the move. When Faz talks about ‘terrifying’, he is not wrong. We also spoke to a union rep and bus driver in Belfast, *Michael Dornan, who made a similar claim when he drew comparisons with driving a bus during the troubles in Northern Ireland and driving a bus during the pandemic.
*his story will appear in our pandemic documentary for Ireland, coming soon.
Unite’s network of safety reps did all that they could to help protect workers, but with such a slow response from the government in supplying PPE to workers and in requesting the public to wear facemask, so many lives were lost on public transport.
In Belfast we spoke with Joan Turner, an NHS paramedic, whose story was harrowing. She was part of an ambulance team who during the pandemic, transferred elderly patients from hospitals into care homes, unwittingly spreading Covid. Joan contracted Covid herself while at work, and her life has been drastically altered. Despite this, she wanted the story to focus on the shocking lack of PPE in care homes. Care homes staff are often seen as second class to NHS. We interviewed a number of people in defence of care home staff. A future organising effort in this sector is needed. You can hear her story in our film.
Our film work took us to Banbury to the manufacturing sector and the campaign against fire and rehire. We recorded this day of action with national officer Joe Clarke. Standing outside the highly profitable coffee company J.D. Egberts. They had attempted to fire and rehire staff on inferior conditions. The workers felt very let down, especially as they had worked so hard during the pandemic. We edited a short film to support this campaign. It was moving to see so many mask wearing workers at the rally standing up for future generations.
Thanks to the 25 million strike fund provided by Unite, Goodlords employees were able to take on their employer. Goodlords had attempted to fire and rehire staff on inferior terms and conditions during lockdown. This meant the workers being asked to work from home permanently, and the withdrawal of London weighting. According to the company, they did not now need to be in London. Two of these worker, Athena Parnell and Martyna Ostrowska kindly let us into their homes and spent a day with us filming. Their stories raised the prescient issue of the future of flexible home working. A big challenge for unions going forward and a pandemic fall-out. For some workers, working from home is a panacea and for others such as low paid Goodlord’s employees based in London, a life of loneliness working on make-shift office desks in shared houses on significantly less pay. You can listen to their story in our film.
With the collapse of the aviation industry, it is no surpise that our film journey took us to Gatwick airport, to spend time with ground crew and union rep Mark Legg and Unite officer, Claire Simpson, an ex flight crew members, who have been tirelessly supporting members during an incredibly difficult time in the aviation industry, where 5000 jobs were being lost per day. You can listen to their stories in our film along with Sharon’s story from Logan Air in Scotland.
Another industry in existential crisis during the pandemic was hospitality. When restaurants and bars closed down, workers had nowhere to go. We met the amazing ex-hospitality worker, Julia Marciniak who now works as a Unite co-ordinator for hospitality in the Republic of Ireland. She spoke passionately about the challenges of life in hospitality and the post-lockdown recruitment crisis. Many workers do not want to return, post-lockdown, to low paid work in a public facing job, where they are potentially putting their lives at risk. You can listen to her story in our film along with the wonderful Caitlin Lee, a worker from the hospitality sector based in Glasgow.
Further pandemic stories are told by from James Mcabe in Dublin, a Unite branch secretary and construction worker, he told us the story of the union and government agreeing to close down all but essential construction work in Ireland during lockdown. The government along with Unite’s support agreed to the closure. This was not a popular decision at the start of of the pandemic, and Unite came under a lot of criticism, especially from other unions. Unite continued to show leadership, putting workers health before anything else. People soon realised that it was the right thing to do. As James points out in our film, “its always health before wealth in Ireland”. This decision saved lives. This is a story of a country in crisis and the union response. You can hear more about this in our pandemic film for Ireland. Out soon.
We spent time in the Northeast with Nissan, the carplant in Sunderland. The union reps, Craig McDonald and Paul Stewart told us their inspiring story of how the automotive manufacturer had used its industrial muscle to support the NHS. The company bought in a mask-making machine, and invited furloughed workers to volunteer to produce PPE. The Nissan workers produced millions of facemasks and aprons. This was a real community and industrial effort. We found the same pandemic community initiative in airplane manufacturer, Airbus, whose work, as part of the aviation supply chain, had been drastically affected. No planes in the air meant no new planes being manufactured. These furloughed Airbus workers manufactured PPE for their local hospital in Wrexham. With everybody afraid for their economic future, these community efforts are especially uplifting. Short films of both of these stories will be out soon.
Further community efforts were found with vibrant Claire Caulfield In Belfast, a Unite learning co-ordinator who had been seconded from her work at Unite to co-ordinate the production of scrubs to protect key workers from the virus (NI Scubs). Volunteers with sewing machines, in their own homes, produced tens of thousands of sets of scrubs. This activity staived off loneliness for many elderly people and unite became a household name. Claire was having to isolate because she has a daughter with a hole in her heart. She led this project from home from her laptop. You can listen to her inspiring story in our film. She is a tour de force.
Our filmic journey was an emotional one, and we met so many amazing union members and union reps, who are immediately inspiring and told us their stories with such passion. These stories and many more will appear across three longer films and a number of short films.
We made this ‘colourwash’ film for Unite the Union. Sometimes unions can be viewed as quite conservative (with a small), so we made this film to give the union a buzzfeed buzz!
This was a branding film, with the key message ‘by your side’. We sourced some playful images to illustrate the message, including the couple on the motor bike with side car. The overall message is that unions are by the side of their members.
We love the colour overlays, I think that they work really well, giving a very contemporary feel to the piece.
The animation elements add dynamism, with scandalous newspaper headlines spinning into view, and company logos flipping over to reveal Unite logos.
The music fits the film well. We chose an upbeat soul song with the line ‘people can you hear me’. This is what democratic unions are all about the people. With a funky bass line & belting brass section, this song makes you want to get up and dance all the way, hopefully to your union branch. The film was used as their conference opener last year.
For those film buffs and union organising officiandos’ at 00:37 there is moving wallpaper, behind the logos, of a famous scene from the labour film Norma Rae (watch here – apparently one of the best films about union organising ever to be told).
Nye Bevan was the son of a coal miner and a campaigner for social justice. He became a labour politician and minister of health in the Attlee post-war government and spearheaded the establishment of the national health service. A service free at the point of need. Now, 70 years on, the NHS as a service is being slowly dismantled, run to the ground and sold off to the highest bidder. Nye Bevan would be appalled. We all should be appalled.
All that good will and honest values that created the service are being eroded and replaced with a dog eat dog mentality, where profit is the main driving force, and everyone is a commodity. It seems that society is being taught the price of everything, but the value of nothing.
We must fight to save our NHS. This is more than just about the NHS it’s about what kind of world we want to live in.
Hospitals, GPs, mental health, ambulance and community services are all on their knees.
Private companies are gaining an ever greater foothold within the NHS. Years of pay restraint has seen the value of NHS staff salaries reduce by 14% since 2010.
The government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are a smokescreen for a massive programme of hospital and community service closures, and its latest instrument for privatisation.
Privatisation far from saving the taxpayer money will cost us more money, as profits line the pockets of corporate millionaires. You can see similar examples in the prison and rail services, none of which have benefitted from privatisation, quite the opposite.
Join national demonstration. 4 March – Assemble 12pm Tavistock Square, London WC1. March through London to Parliament.
This film resource will be launched in parliament today by the excellent charity Maternity Action with the Legal Education Foundation. MP’s from across the UK will attend. The resource will reach out to young women, helping them to tackle discrimination in the workplace.
The target audience for this group of films are women working in low-income jobs. This demographic are mostly likely to suffer from discrimination at work and to be unaware of their rights. Participants from focus groups suggested that these women would be responsive to scenario-based films that inform them of their rights.
Based on this, we scripted and produced three scenario-based films (built around workers in three low-income workplaces: care worker, supermarket worker and restaurant worker) that inform women of their rights.
An important part of our scripting process was to put women in positions where they were challenging discrimination. So, in active rather than passive roles.
You can watch the films here
Pursuing a grievance: Next steps for dealing with an unfair boss
Summary: Jasmine works as a care worker in an aged care home and has informed her employer about her pregnancy. After arranging an informal meeting with her employer to discuss the heavy physical duties that are a risk to her pregnancy, Jasmine’s employer does not do anything. The video explores the process of pursuing a grievance with the support of Maternity Action.
Arranging an informal meeting: First steps to dealing with a pregnancy-related problem at work
Summary: Eve works in a supermarket and has just notified her boss, in writing, that she is pregnant. Her boss does not respond well and starts to treat Eve negatively. The video explores some of the discriminatory treatment women experience at work during pregnancy and how to discuss issues with employers in an informal meeting.
What are my health and safety rights at work during pregnancy?
Summary: Aisha is a waitress at a restaurant and has just found out she is pregnant. She is worried about how her boss will respond so she searches on the Maternity Action website for advice. The video explores what health and safety rights pregnant woman are entitled to at work and what an employer should do.
Actors were sought from Nic Knight mgt. These included Aimee (supermarket worker), Leslie (care worker) and Komal (restaurant worker), as well as Melanie BEFFTA award winning comedian (@melanieTgayle), Amy B, Graham B, Lizzie, Ceza and Gilly D.
With the help and generosity of the proprietors of various locations (care home, Italian restaurant, supermarket etc..) we filmed the whole shoot in 3 days.
Working within the charity sector, NGO, not for profit sector, low budgets productions are a challenge, but we think that we do a good job.
A bit thanks to our crew at Neontetra films (Chris, Katie & me). We know a lot more about prosthetic tummies than we did before we started!
Also, to Procam for various bits of kit and greenkit.london for their energy efficient lighting solutions.
Building the legal capability of pregnant women is essential. With 54,000 women a year being forced out of their job for being pregnant or taking maternity leave. Please watch and share this resource.
We spent the day filming in Liverpool with Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary. Working class heroes like Len were shaped by their background by their stories. Len was a child of the 1960’s when revolution was in the air. This short film offers an insight into the real Len, and his journey from dock worker to general secretary of one of the largest trade unions in the country.
In our film, Len reflects on his humble background, brought up in a poor neighbourhood in the backstreets of Liverpool in a two-up two-down. There were lots of jobs back then. Len chose to work on the docks. On his first day, he was told, ‘you join the union here, son’. The docks were alive and vibrant and this is where Len’s politics took shape. These were the beginning of his ascent to union leader, representing the interests of 1.42 million members.
We were recently asked to make a short film about Polyanna for Elizabeth’s Legacy of a hope, a charity that helps child amputees. Pollyanna is an extraordinary ballerina for she has one foot, following a tragic accident. This makes her dancing even more remarkable. She is a beautiful dancer, but the ballet examiners still score dancers like Pollyanna down, making no reasonable adjustments to the examinations to take into account her disability. She scores low marks on footwork (as she only has one foot). This is a form of institutional discrimination. For our film we asked Amber Doyle to choreograph a piece with Pollyanna at the fabulous Pineapple studios. We asked Amber to use the music of Massenet and for Pollyanna to dress as in a painting of Edgar Degas . The rest of the film was shot at the family home with Pollyanna, sister Saphire and brother Barnaby, along with parents Chris and Sarah Hope. We hope that you enjoy the film. Please watch and share and support the great work of Elizabeth’s legacy of Hope.