Tangent animation ordered to pay workers who were suddenly fired

One of the most surprising stories of the year happened back in August when the Canadian animation studio Tangent Animation, which produced the animation for Netflix's Maya and the Three, abruptly shut down.

The company, which had studios in Toronto and Winnipeg, terminated hundreds of animation workers without notice and without paying the termination and severance pay owed to them under Canadian employment standards legislation.

When the studio failed to live up to its obligations, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) stepped in to help. IATSE represents the L.A. animation industry via The Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839), and more recently launched The Canadian Animation Guild (IATSE Local 938) to represent workers in the Canadian industry, which remains largely unorganized.

IATSE immediately wrote to Tangent to demand they pay their workers what was owed to them. The union also wrote to the ministries responsible for employment standards enforcement in each province to ensure they were aware of the situation and to demand an immediate investigation into the matter.

The union also provided free legal support to all terminated workers by educating them on their legal rights and providing step-by-step assistance on how to file and successfully pursue employment standards complaints in each province.

On Friday, IATSE announced that multiple government agencies in Canada have ordered Tangent to pay what's owed to former employees. For the former studio's Toronto location, the order came from Ontario's Ministry of Labor, Training, and Skills Development, while the Winnipeg order was issued from the Department of Finance–Manitoba Employment Standards.

“This order will see hundreds of thousands of dollars go directly into the pockets of workers,” said Matt Loeb, IATSE International president.

John Lewis, IATSE International vice president and director of Canadian affairs, added, “The IATSE will stand up for animation workers in every province of this country regardless of whether they are actually members of the IATSE. The animation industry is very precarious, and these workers need strong union support to defend their rights and improve their working conditions”.