The core stage crew of ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ is reportedly making noise over how top producers have behaved during the coronavirus pandemic.
Communication appears to be the biggest complaint, though most of the crew members aren’t working and have seen their pay dramatically reduced, according to Variety.
The more than 30 crew members didn’t see a word in writing for more than a month regarding their hours or pay, or even asking about their health, two insiders told the trade outlet. Phone calls have been returned occasionally by a production coordinator, but little information was provided, they said.
Because of that, crew members who were worried about being furloughed reportedly didn’t know whether they should prepare to apply for unemployment. The show usually shoots four days a week.
A Warner Bros Television spokesman did not respond immediately to The Los Angeles Times’ request for comment Friday.
Last week, producers told the union crew to expect a 60 per cent cut in pay, according to Variety’s insiders, while the non-union, outside tech company Key Code was hired to assist with production as DeGeneres tapes shows on a remote set constructed at her home. Four regular crew members are working on the remote show, which started at the beginning of April, the insiders said.
News of production on the remote show reportedly came as a surprise to most crew members. The studio told Variety that the representatives from the union that represents the crew members, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, had signed off on hiring the non-union shop.
A spokesman for Warner Bros Television, which distributes ‘Ellen,’ told Variety that union crew members have been paid consistently since the pandemic hit, albeit at a reduced rate.
The crew last worked the week of March 9, Variety said, then the Warner Bros lot shut down the week of March 16 — which was the last week for which the crew was paid in full. The next week was a planned spring hiatus.
Pay cuts for the union crew came the week of March 30, when hours were reduced from 10 a day to 8, for a total of 32 hours per week, Then, on April 10, employees were told to prep for a pay reduction to only 16 hours per week. Rumours about a return to full pay swirled midweek after Variety began asking about the situation, the outlet said.
Some of the stage crew have been with the syndicated show since the pilot 17 years ago, Variety said, and DeGeneres is one of TV’s highest paid stars, with a Telepictures deal worth nearly $50 million (Dh183.6 million) a year.