B.C. union files Employment Standards complaint against Vancouver studio behind ‘Sausage Party’

Pop Goes The News — Labour union Unifor has filed a complaint with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch on behalf of animators behind the adult comedy Sausage Party.

Unifor Local 2000 alleges that Nitrogen Studios Canada Inc. failed to pay animators overtime for their work on the film, which was co-directed by the company’s founder Greg Tiernan.

Sausage Party, co-written and co-produced by Vancouver natives Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, has grossed $73.5 million since it opened on Aug. 12.

“Many of these animators are too scared to come forward – that’s why we’ve filed the third party complaint,” said Jennifer Moreau, Unifor Local 2000 vice-president, in a release.

“They are afraid they will be blacklisted and denied future employment in what’s essentially a small, tight-knit community, where they go from contract to contract.”

Vancouver is home to several animation studios but none are unionized.

“Workers tell us the companies use loopholes, classifying their work as high tech or contract work, to get around basic employment standards,” Moreau said.

“It’s hard enough to live in Vancouver given the cost of housing. To work long hours and not get paid is just unacceptable.”

The complaint was filed on Aug. 19.

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A group of artists who worked on Sausage Party formally complained to Nitrogen Studios last December, alleging the company used pressure tactics to intimidate animators into working extra hours without compensation.

In a letter, the workers described a “frustrating work environment.”

Tiernan told The Hollywood Reporter that Nitrogen “adhered to all overtime regulations and our contractual obligations to our artists” and insisted concerns expressed by workers were “handled appropriately.”

The drama over the comedy was reanimated after Tiernan and co-director Conrad Vernon boasted to Cartoon Brew about the film’s modest budget (reportedly $19 million). Sausage Party benefitted from generous tax credits from both the B.C. and Canadian governments.

In the comments section of the interview, individuals claiming to have worked on the film brought up overtime complaints.

“If you wouldn’t work late for free your work would be assigned to someone who would stay late or come in on the weekend,” wrote one. “Some artist(s) were even threatened with termination for not staying late to hit a deadline.”

The person claimed the names of many animators were taken out of the credits despite having worked on the project for a year.

The B.C. Employment Standards Branch enforces the province’s Employment Standards Act to ensure “minimum standards for wages and working conditions in most workplaces.”

Remedies range from audits and asset seizures to monetary fines for both companies and their directors.