As I write to you, many of us have been sent home from sets, production offices and post suites. Others among us are emerging from a customarily fallow winter period into what might have been a robust months-long run of work. Virtually all of us are now at home, either in voluntary quarantine as I am (having stepped off an airplane) or simply limiting our contact with other people as we do our part to protect vulnerable fellow citizens from this infection, and to collectively protect our health services from a too sudden spike in the rate of infection.
No matter our personal circumstances, we all have our shoulder to the wheel now to take on this challenge.
Our first concern, as always, is the health of our members, but the biggest challenge for most of us moving forward is that the income we may have been expecting for months to come when we woke up last Wednesday disappeared on Monday. This is a sudden challenge. An acute challenge for some of us.
The DGC wants to do everything we can to assist members now and in the weeks to come. Like many members I prefer to have things laid out clearly so I can plan, so I’m going to be as clear as I can about what DGC National can and can’t do to mitigate this blow:
1) On a conference call late last night, the DGC National Executive Board approved waiving all 2nd Quarter dues for Guild members. This decision comes at a cost of $875,000 to the Guild’s reserves, but this is what reserves are for and the time is now. Members who have prepaid will receive a full credit for 2020 Q2 when they pay 2021 dues.
2) DGC National is in a full court press with the Federal government and appropriate Federal Ministers to establish direct financial assistance for contract workers like us.
3) DGC National is working diligently to protect your health plan and make it available as always to members in need. The plan is robust and much of the COVID-19 health care shock was anticipated. So we are vigilant but confident that services will be maintained. If you have questions regarding DGC Benefits, please email DGCBenefits@dgc.ca.
4) In addition to the DGC’s health plan, Guild members often apply to the AFC in times of need. Last night, DGC National increased its 2020 donation to the AFC to $75,000.00 and will make the full balance of those moneys available immediately. Together with the Ontario and British Columbia District Councils’ substantial contributions, this donation makes your Guild a major supporter of this most essential assistance fund. If you need short-term financial assistance, go to www.afchelps.ca.
5) DGC National is monitoring the RRSP plan with our partners at IATSE – with whom we sit on the fund’s CEIRP Board. Though it is a big one, this is not our first market shock, so we are absorbing it with considerable diversification and the ability to wait out the harshest part of the downturn. Some members have asked whether they can draw down their RRSPs during this crisis. The answer from the CEIRP Board is that because a major portion of the RRSP contribution comes from the producer with the stipulation in our collective agreements that this contribution be reserved for retirement only, drawing down the mandatory portion of the plan is not currently possible. Members may draw down on voluntarily contributions they have made. The only exception to this policy is in cases of “extreme hardship” (for example, pending eviction/foreclosure, extraordinary medical expenses). Details can be found here. If you have any questions regarding CEIRP, e-mail email@example.com.
6) DGC National staff is coordinating closely with every District Council. As it has indicated in recent e-bulletins, your DGC District Council is hard at work enforcing pay and safety clauses in your contract, using every lever at its disposal: provincial labour laws, calls to the provincial government, direct contact with every producer and studio. Please consult these e-bulletins for updates on COVID-19 and on resources available to you through your Guild.
The above is the clearest picture I can give you at present of how we can help.
Anything we can do for you and for each other, we will. I won’t hide that in a challenge of this magnitude a professional association like ours will turn vigorously for support to players with deep pockets, namely our governments, and through them major businesses that have a clear role to play in this crisis such as utilities and banks.
As an organisation with one of the sharpest administrative and advocacy teams in the world, DGC National is taking every action in its power to protect you. That includes work already underway upholding our collective agreements, helping you access available benefits, protecting your plans in an exceptionally volatile environment, and converting our day-to-day programs into emergency assistance resources for all our members.
This is a moment when we all have to come together and you should know that your Guild is doing everything in its power to help.
Yours in solidarity,
DGC National President