Equity has resolved to take new action to lobby the government educate employers and performers at their 2010 conference. Equity representatives meet once a year in an ARC (Annual Representative Conference) so that regional/local branches of the union can put forward motions to shape union activities. You can visit the Conference Agenda and view the Motions Carried.
Reports generally on the ARC indicate that campaigning and activism are on the rise. This rise is mirrored by the large number of candidates in this year’s elections many are using social media sites to actively campaign, engaging younger members and raising awareness of issues such as NMW.
At the 2010 ARC there were two motions directly related to NMW and no/low pay issues. Both motions passed. The first motion (Equity ARC Motion#2) proposes to lobby the government to allow unions to fully represent their members. This lobbying is significant because actors generally are too vulnerable take up these actions themselves. If successful, the union could initiate complaints on the behalf of actors, triggering investigations and fines for employers who underpay actors. The second (Equity ARC motion #3) proposes to create Equity leaflets to educate entry level employers about NWM and other low pay legislation.
These motions combined realise the strong position Equity is in due to NMW legislation, combined with an effort to lobby to improve on this position to help vulnerable members.
First, with publications, Equity can raise awareness of the risks that employers take when infringing the NMW. At the same time actors can be told how to claim wages from underpaying employers or make complaints about employers who are underpaying actors. These publications can educate everyone in the sector, from recent graduates to long-standing underpayers of basic guidelines for NMW and best practices for hiring actors.
If Equity and other TUC member unions successfully lobby the government to take up cases on behalf of workers, it is likely to consistent and fair application of the NMW is the performing arts.
Currently, employers are generally confident that actors and other performers are too vulnerable to take up take cases up themselves. Unions themselves hope to take the point position in these cases, to save entry level performers from exposure to the threats of no further employment simply for recovering wages they are due.
Here is the full wording of the motions:
MOTION 2: Midlands Annual General MeetingIn law every ‘worker’ is entitled to the National Minimum Wage. The TUC fully supports this policy, which includes Equity and its sister unions. However, under current legislation a union cannot initiate a complaint on behalf of a ‘worker’ challenging an employer on low pay/no pay issue. This Annual Representative Conference calls on the Equity Council, with the cooperation of all the unions within the framework of the TUC, to mount a vociferous campaign to change this legislation to ensure the right of unions to fully represent their members underthe National Minimum Wage Act.
MOTION 3: North West of England Branch
Due to the continuing and increasing proliferation of low/no pay “jobs” and the unfortunate fact that so many performers who are not members of Equity are in the main responsible for allowing the situation to perpetuate, perhaps it is time to take some subtle steps to help safeguard members in the future and save the lower end of the industry from itself.
This Annual Representative Conference calls upon the Equity Council and staff look into the feasibility of preparing two awareness information leaflets which could also double as code of practice guidelines, written in consultation with members ‘on the ground’ who are most affected by this continued abuse.
Both leaflets to cover such points from requesting reasonable notice for auditions to health and safety responsibilities to calling for realisation that this is our job and we should be paid for it… properly.
The first to specifically target TV, Film and Video production companies, film schools, colleges and universities running the varying types of media courses. The second to target small scale theatre and TIE companies, drama schools, colleges and universities running the plethora of performing arts courses; also to be targeted at local education authorities and heads of school across the entire education system possibly via co-operation with the various teachers unions.