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Can Our Industry Avoid 'The Great Resignation?'

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(Image credit: Getty)

Last month I wrote about the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on trade shows within our industry, preventing colleagues from gathering in person. As we head into 2022 and the threat of omicron forces many parts of the world to face lockdowns and continued isolation policies once again, the impact that is having on our collective psyche is immense. 

One phenomenon that was not anticipated at the start of the pandemic was “the great resignation”—where employees are deciding that the risks and/or pay associated with their jobs are not worth the price. As recently as September, a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs, leading to more than 11 million job openings. 

A common theme among those who have quit is burnout, and while this condition is not unusual, the pressures associated with the pandemic (and often civil unrest) have made conditions progressively worse for our industry. A report from UNI Global Union (UniGlobal) found that excessive hours and “life-threatening levels of fatigue” are having a devastating impact on the health and well being of workers in the film and TV industries. 

Anyone who has covered live news will relate to the pressures that come from long hours and unpredictable workloads, but like the conditions that have prompted “the great resignation,” the pandemic exposed their negative impact even moreso. 

These deteriorating conditions led to more than 98% of voting members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to call for a strike in October. However a tentative agreement was struck, which calls for significant wage increases for hourly workers, boosts revenues from streaming and addresses quality-of-life issues such as rest and meal breaks. The provisions also reduce weekend hours and  include 54 hours of rest for those working five consecutive days per week, and 32 hours of rest for those working six days.

Advances in remote production helped our industry transition to situations that led to fewer workers on site and allowed us to adapt a work-from-home policy; however when it comes to newsgathering, there’s no substitute for being on the scene when and where news happens. 

Our industry is also plagued by the problems of an aging workforce and industry organizations have developed numerous initiatives designed to attract new blood. We don’t need the added burdens imposed by a pandemic to repel potential new employees or drive existing workers away. 

Here’s to a (hopefully) more peaceful 2022.

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Technology (www.tvtechnology.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.