Hi Ian! Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us! Firstly, to break it down for people who may know very little about Equity: what does Equity do and why is it so important for actors and performers in the UK?
Equity is the UK’s leading trade union for workers in the entertainment industry. Members of the union are professional actors, performers and other creative workers including dancers, singers, stage managers, audio artists etc. There are 47,000 members of the union, and a further 5,000 students. Equity is the voice of the industry’s workforce.
Equity is the essential protection for the core workforce of the entertainment industry who are principally self-employed workers and who can be subject to abusive, exploitative behaviour in the industries gig economy. We are the collective voice of the workforce, championing their welfare and criticising these actions that are detrimental to their interests. This includes, for example, campaigning against the recent decision by the Arts Council of England to withdraw funding from Oldham Coliseum, on the leading venues of the North West and major employer: Oldham Coliseum closure statement.
As the organisation's Equalities and Education Officer, can you take us through what that entails? What does a typical day look like for you?
In my role I am responsible for policy, strategy and campaigns related to the union’s diversity and inclusion agenda. In a nutshell my job focuses on the removal of discriminatory barriers to union members gaining work in a fair, accessible way. Additionally, my role seeks to ensure that when members are in work they can undertake their work in a safe, inclusive working environment.
There is no typical day, but a day will include advising on casework, liaising with regulators and MPs to help improve the statutory protections of members, liaising with other industry unions on joint projects, and supporting the work of the union’s four equality committees and different networks.
DEI is something that many companies are still figuring out on the job right now. How has Equity been supporting productions with their DEI initiatives?
Four equality committees (women workers, Black workers, Deaf and disabled workers and LGBT+) determine the union’s policy priorities around the union’s equalities agenda. We don’t support productions with their own initiatives.
Across the industry, practices have changed so quickly between different generations in the entertainment industry. What has Equity been doing to ensure that people from older generations and younger generations are on the same page when it comes to working safely on productions?
Nothing specific regarding age, but all members receive a constant body of communications on the work of the union, and there are allied events across the UK.
There is still skepticism about how much big organisations and institutions in MSE (media, sports, and entertainment) exist to protect themselves above all else, often at the expense of their employees.
What are your thoughts on that and what would you say to people who worry about such issues and how they will be protected by Equity?
First, all workers should join a trade union. Second, workers should raise a concern when they feel they are being abused or discriminated against. Cultural practices within organisations that harm people continue to thrive in situations where workers fear raising concerns. It is only working collectively through a union that organisations can be held to account and issues resolved.
What would you say to a young performer going into the industry today? What advice or quotes do you wish to share?
Join a union, and play an active role in making the entertainment industry a safe, inclusive place to work.