Members of the Neighbours production crew claim that production company Fremantle is refusing to pay their redundancy pay.
The Australian soap, which first aired in 1985 and has been on our screens for 37 years, was cancelled in March, with the final episodes set to air in August.
Kylie Minogue and co-star Jason Donovan have confirmed that they will return to the show to mark the finale.
‘They’ve had Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan come over to shoot scenes recently,’ said Paul Stanley, an organiser for the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance union.
‘That’s great, but you have people on staff who took eight weeks off last year to “save the show.” You say you can’t afford to pay us redundancies, but you’re investing in talent.’
According to reports, union delegates have met with executives from the production company several times in recent months to discuss the ‘devastating impact of the show’s cancellation on long-serving crew,’ which includes about 100 employees.
Despite their yearly contracts rolling over, the union claimed Fremantle maintained that the workers are not employees but contractors, and thus are not entitled to the same benefits as regular employees.
‘Under the cover of rolling fixed-term contracts, Fremantle is attempting to avoid payment to crew who have been loyal to the production, in some cases for decades,’ the union told members in a bulletin following the show’s cancellation.
One crew member, who has worked on Neighbours for over three decades, expressed dissatisfaction with Freemantle’s lack of’recognition of the service.’
‘They always make it seem like we’re all part of the family at Neighbours,’ he said, ‘but then it comes to the end of the show, which is obviously sad, and they just turn around and say, “well, you’re not entitled to any benefits,” which is a bit frustrating and disappointing.’
Chief executive Greg Woods of Fremantle Australia, on the other hand, has stated that the company has met its legal obligations.
‘We will not be providing a detailed comment at this time to safeguard the wellbeing of our cast and crew, who are our primary concern, and with just over one week left of production,’ he said.
‘In addition, we do not comment on HR-related matters as a matter of company policy.’
‘However, I can confirm that we have sought outside counsel to ensure that we provide the necessary support, that we meet everyone’s legal entitlements, and that we fully comply with our obligations,’ he continued.
‘As the production approaches next Friday, our emphasis is and will continue to be to support the well-being of our actors and staff.’