OLD VIC seeks 100+ actors UNPAID

UPDATED 30 July 2010

This Old Vic ad has been removed from the Arts Council ‘Artsjobs’ Website:

(click image for full size version)

The above advert placed in ArtsJobs (the Arts Council’s website) seems to have been trawling for 100+ technicians and professional actors for what should be a community project. If they are just looking for non professionals then the advert should explicitly stated that.

HOWEVER the notice is still on the OLD VIC website:

(click to enlarge screenshots)

The versions on the OLD VIC NEW VOICES WEBSITE are still not clearly compliant with MWR. The jobs advertised do not obviously fit the volunteer or voluntary worker exemptions, though they clearly fit the criteria to be classed as NMW eligible ‘workers’ in employment law:

Workers are people who work under a contract of employment or a contract personally to perform work or provide services to another party to the contract (but not the genuinely self employed). Paid staff in the charity sector are eligible for National Minimum Wage as in the public and private sectors. It is not possible for any organisation to contract out of the statutory minimum wage obligations. follow this link for more info

If the Old Vic wishes to engage these workers as Voluntary Workers: The Old Vic should make the applicants aware of this in the application stage.  It would be best practice to to make it perfectly clear that no payment (aside from limited receipted expenses for food and transport) or payment in kind could be offered to the participants.  Prohibited payment in kind includes complimentary tickets, clothing, books, posters, programmes, photographs, recordings of the performance.  Anything of professional interest or has a monetary value.  The Old Vic should however be reimbursing (on a receipt basis) reasonable food and travel expenses.

The Old Vic is not an ACE funded organisation, it survives on the donations of individuals and, corporate sponsors, and foundations and trusts (see below). So the well meaning donations by businesses and individuals (and the money contributed by charitable organisations) is likely being used unlawfully.

Regardless of whether the the productions are unlawfull, professional actors and technicians are apparently being called on to be broadly exploited.  This exploitation allows the OLD Vic to create productions that compete with companies that pay actors fair wages.  This sort of practice promotes elitism in the arts and undermines the labour of professional actors.  It is difficult to imagine a situation in which these workers will be working directly in aid of the Old Vic’s Charitable objectives.  On top of that our tax money was used to pay for the advertising on the Arts Council’s Artsjobs website which has since suspended the advertising of unpaid work entirely.

Equity has been informed that this production is casting. Equity members cast in the production who feel they should be paid at lease NMW will likely be supported by Equity in a claim for wages.

The risks they are taking: The Old Vic is being reported to the HMRC. If any of the performers or technicians claim wages The Old Vic may receive a payment order for unpaid wages, expenses and other costs. They may be fined up to £5000. If during the investigation they fail to cooperate, they may face criminal charges.

The Old Vic is also breaking their covenant to the community of professional actors and theatre technicians and this will not soon be forgotten.

Readers comments, and those from the Arts Council, BECTU, EQUITY, and the OLD VIC are welcome below.

If you have time on your hands, please write to the project’s sponsors:

The OVNV Club has also received generous contributions from The Marina Kleinwort Charitable Trust, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, The Mackintosh Foundation, The Idlewild Trust, Bernice Chitnis and other individual supporters of The Old Vic Club.

These are the trustees


This entry was posted in acting, actors, Arts Council, Equity, minimum wage, national minimum wage, nmw, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to OLD VIC seeks 100+ actors UNPAID

  1. Kit Friend says:

    This is absolutely disgusting, I don’t see how such a well established theatre can be so ignorant of NMW.

  2. Ian Seale says:

    These guys pleading ignorance (ignorance is NEVER mitigation for breaking the law – “sorry officer I didn’t know that the speed limit was 30 mph and I was doing 110 mph” – but I don’t believe that they are all ‘ignorant’ – they’ve been trying it on and others have been turning a blind eye – this is not a matter of lack of ‘education’.
    Anyone that fails to pay at least NMW when NMW is due should face the consequences (it’s the law, how many time have you been given leniency when breaking even minor laws like parking and traffic offences?) , and The Old Vic should not be an exception, or above the law.
    ‘IF’ the Old Vic (or any other company/producer for that matter) fails to properly and correctly remunerate performers it should be very publicly taken to tribunal and the outcome broadcast amongst the profession.
    Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and that The Old Vic see the error of their ways and pay appropriately – publishing and broadcasting THAT amongst the profession might well have a similar (or better) effect.

  3. The Old Vic says:

    The comments relating to The Old Vic Platform project on your website are incorrect. The Old Vic is a registered charity, not in receipt of annual or even regular ACE funding, and is hiring volunteers for this project which it is entitled to do under s44 of the NMW Act. The Old Vic Theatre Trust requires the publisher to remove these incorrect comments within 24 hrs or it reserves the right to consider its position.

    • Hi there Vic,

      Thanks for wading in on the debate. It certainly will help raise awareness of the issue. Heavy tone though.
      Boy, Vic, you don’t pull your punches, eh?

      I have moderated the original posting to accommodate that you might be able to engage these people as ‘voluntary workers’ for your youth project. It might have saved some hurt and confusion if you mentioned it was a youth project in your job postings.

      Vic, you may have noticed that the status of your funding had been updated before your comment came through. You will have to forgive us, as you are not the only Old Vic around (so consusing!). After recieving your comment I have had a brush over the wording again. Please let us know your thoughts.

      Now that we have made you happy Vic, can you please do us a favour and answer the following questions with the same directness and candor as your above comment:

      If you are engaging ‘voluntary workers’ under Section 44 of the minimum wage act it would be good practice if they were fulfilling the charitable objectives of the project.
      What are your charitable objectives?
      How are the 100+ voluntary workers working in aid of this?
      Which of the the projects organisers, directors, and writers also volunteering their time?

      Friends forever now?
      Lighten up.

      Old Annie

    • Hi Vic!

      Long time no hear. I feel like I might have hurt your feelings and I would like to apologise.

      In fact, here’s a little favour. I went to visit the website of The National Council for Work Experience (NCWE). I figure they are a pretty good, objective third party to refer to, so we can get past opinion and base a judgement on fact, law, and solid advice.

      If you would like to make an enquiry with them here is their contact form: http://www.work-experience.org/ncwe.rd/contact.jsp

      Here is what they have to say about ‘voluntary workers’, volunteers and work placements:

      “National Minimum Wage

      This subject has been a grey area for a while but recent conversations with the National Minimum Wage (NMW) helpline suggests:

      A volunteer working for a charity, voluntary organisation, charity shop, school, hospital or similar body need not be paid the national minimum wage because they do not have any contractual arrangement and therefore are not classed as workers. They can come and go as they please, do not have set work obligations or have set hours. It is still acceptable for them to receive some sort of payment of benefit in kind ie reasonable expenses, relevant training or subsistence (but not money for subsistence).

      Someone wanting to work on a voluntary basis for non-charitable commercial enterprises to gain experience and have something on their CV cannot waiver the right to the minimum wage. This would undermine the National Minimum Wage Bill and go against the principle that volunteering should be for the social good rather than being a form of cheap labour for commercial profit.

      Apart from working for a voluntary organisation or charity as a volunteer, if work shadowing ie basically watching or if doing work experience as a mandatory part of a university degree then there is no obligation to pay the minimum wage, except:

      If they are doing work that they would have to employ someone else to do if they were not there.
      If they have a contract (express or implied, verbal or in writing) and where there is mutual obligation (ie the individual is not free to go at any time and has certain tasks to perform). An oral agreement to perform certain services is considered to be the basis of a contract.”

      Good luck with ‘Platform.’ maybe I’ll be seeing you at the casting. Just kidding. Really.

      Are we friends yet?

      Old Annie

  4. Bill Shakers says:

    Wow! Old Vic a light touch might have yielded you more sympathy, a quality that is generally prized by charities.

    I am struggling to understand what element of Section 44 you are relying on, it is not enough to simply state someone is a volunteer and the onus is most certainly on employers to prove that they are compliant with NMW legislation. Having read the text of your advert there is clearly a mandatory element to the work…

    “I can do most of the rehearsals but not all. Can I still apply?
    As long as you can attend the majority of rehearsals and all of the performance dates then you can still apply. Unfortunately, if it looks like you will be unavailable for any of the performances, you will not be able to take part and, therefore, should not apply.”

    In the present day and age charities are meant to have charitable aims as well as proving their public benefit. I’m really struggling to understand your hardball position here, why decide to invoke Section 44 on this ‘work’ but not on your inhouse productions, where is your dividing line, how and why is this different to Prisoner of Second Avenue? Please help me understand.

  5. 44Voluntary workers
    (1)A worker employed by a charity, a voluntary organisation, an associated fund-raising body or a statutory body does not qualify for the national minimum wage in respect of that employment if he receives, and under the terms of his employment (apart from this Act) is entitled to,—
    (a)no monetary payments of any description, or no monetary payments except in respect of expenses—
    (i)actually incurred in the performance of his duties; or
    (ii)reasonably estimated as likely to be or to have been so incurred; and
    (b)no benefits in kind of any description, or no benefits in kind other than the provision of some or all of his subsistence or of such accommodation as is reasonable in the circumstances of the employment.
    (2)A person who would satisfy the conditions in subsection (1) above but for receiving monetary payments made solely for the purpose of providing him with means of subsistence shall be taken to satisfy those conditions if—
    (a)he is employed to do the work in question as a result of arrangements made between a charity acting in pursuance of its charitable purposes and the body for which the work is done; and
    (b)the work is done for a charity, a voluntary organisation, an associated fund-raising body or a statutory body.
    (3)For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) above—
    (a)any training (other than that which a person necessarily acquires in the course of doing his work) shall be taken to be a benefit in kind; but
    (b)there shall be left out of account any training provided for the sole or main purpose of improving the worker’s ability to perform the work which he has agreed to do.
    (4)In this section—
    “associated fund-raising body” means a body of persons the profits of which are applied wholly for the purposes of a charity or voluntary organisation;
    “charity” means a body of persons, or the trustees of a trust, established for charitable purposes only;
    “receive”, in relation to a monetary payment or a benefit in kind, means receive in respect of, or otherwise in connection with, the employment in question (whether or not under the terms of the employment);
    “statutory body” means a body established by or under an enactment (including an enactment comprised in Northern Ireland legislation);
    “subsistence” means such subsistence as is reasonable in the circumstances of the employment in question, and does not include accommodation;
    “voluntary organisation” means a body of persons, or the trustees of a trust, which is established only for charitable purposes (whether or not those purposes are charitable within the meaning of any rule of law), benevolent purposes or philanthropic purposes, but which is not a charity.
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