It has emerged that Quibi underpays its workers by using a union loophole as reported by Input Mag. The company has come in for a lot of criticism since its launch in April. The premise came in for criticism as did its early download numbers.
Since then Quibi has entered discussions to bring to the platform to TVs. Talks are underway about making the platform compatible with Chromecast. Quibi has also tried to invigorate user interaction by adding features like the ability to take screenshots of their favourite TV shows.
None of which has been particularly successful. Now it has emerged that the company has been underpaying its workers. This is the last thing Quibi needs after a lacklustre start to its life.
Quibi splits feature-length productions into chunks
Jeffrey Katzenberg, who owns the company has admitted to breaking up feature-length productions into 10-minute chunks for the platform. This, in essence, cuts a chunk out of the crew’s paychecks because of the short run times.
Premium scripted original productions by Quibi are set at $100,000-150,000. This equates to a $9 million budget if it was a 90-minute feature film.
For an independent theatrical film that would be fairly typical. However, productions of this scale and standard that is maybe half of what we should expect.
Quibi employees unable to negotiate pay rates
After an interview with Quibi employees, it was found that they are often unable to negotiate pay increases. Those that could had very varying levels of success.
Input found that of the final 10 rates shared with them, the crew averaged less than $10/hour less than they were entitled to. This is if you compare their rates of pay to Locals wage scales.
This pay exploitation is all above board, however. As it is based off a program’s first exhibition the language of the agreement leaves the door for exploitation.
Quibi exploits "less than 20-minute" loophole
To understand this all in full, one must fully understand the inner workings of Hollywood's unions. This is in itself intensity complicated.
However, keeping things as simple as possible the bulk of film/TV production crews are represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). IATSE and a few other groups negotiate their collective bargaining agreements every three years or so.
Until now Katzenberg, the owner of Quibi, has a reputation associated with success. He has sat at union tables over the years giving him significant leverage when it comes to action and strikes.
Due to this influence, he as was a part of the negotiation that introduced the idea of programmes under 20 minutes are not seen as "high budget".
Despite some pushback, this idea has continued to persist in union agreements including the IATSE. Movies over 20 minutes did begin to include the idea of mid-budget. This was with good intentions as it made the exclusion of high budget productions less problematic.
However, by describing its productions as 10 minutes long Quibi underpays its workers. This is because the productions make crew "freely negotiable".
Quibi is yet to respond to this issue despite how clear it is that they are exploiting a loophole. The company has support from the major studios in order to get access to major stars. However, it is the ones that we have not heard of which are paying for this.
The fact that this has come out will not be good news for Quibi. The company does not need any more bad press at the moment. However, hopefully, this news will prompt them to make changes and better pay their employees.