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BECTU's Advice on Force Majeure

Crew suspended – Force Majeure

The union has been informed a number of productions have suspended crew as a result of the ongoing dispute with WGA and SAG. Bectu has taken legal advice regarding the imposed suspension of crew and the use of force majeure. The advice unfortunately confirms that productions can suspend crew using force majeure and relieve the production of their duties under the contract. Please see legal advice below.

"A force majeure clause in a contract usually provides that, where an extraordinary event occurs that is outside a party’s control, the obligations and liabilities under the contract can be varied, either by allowing a short delay in performance, for the affected party to not perform the contract at all and, in some instances, giving rise to a right to terminate the contract.

In English law, there is no single legal definition of “force majeure”. Translated literally, the phrase means “superior force”. A contract may specific a list of uncontrollable incidents or circumstances that would prevent the contract being performed, or simply provide that any event beyond a party’s control will amount to force majeure.

Force majeure events are usually stipulated by a contract as being unpredictable events that fall into natural incidents (i.e. earthquakes, floods, fires, etc.) and human created incidents (i.e. wars, invasions, strikes) and are often defined precisely to capture industry-specific risks.

Usually, a force majeure clause in a contract will only relieve the affected party of its obligations where performance of its obligations is imposed, or it is unable to perform the contract rather than simply being hindered or delayed. In addition, the events must be the sole reason and not one of many reasons as to why the contact cannot be performed.

Strike action may be considered a force majeure event if it is beyond the affected party’s control, the affected party has taken reasonable steps to avoid it and it is the only reason the contract cannot be performed (plus, the affected party must be willing to perform the contact in the absence of the force majeure event)."

We appreciate that this is a very worrying time for members, we will continue to monitor the situation and provide further guidance and helpful information as the situation develops.

BECTU has informed the Guild that it will continue to seek legal advice on the issue of Force Majeure being used by parties to a dispute, which under some circumstances is against UK law.

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