What can Equity do for UK actors?
Guest Post by Actor Tigger Blaize
Never in our experience has there been a period of such widespread, uncertain working conditions – now is the time to lean on trade unions.
If you’re in the Performing Arts in the UK, your union is Equity. With 47,000 members they are the 9th biggest union in the UK. In the last twelve weeks, Equity staff have leapt into action, to provide advice on Covid-19 and the breakdown of contracts ensuing from the abrupt shutdown owing to the pandemic. They’ve been lobbying the government relentlessly, speaking up for freelance, self-employed creatives, applying pressure to ensure nobody falls through the cracks; they are helping members to claim benefits in the crisis (state benefit and the Actors Benevolent Fund which is currently distributing £86,000 per week). Looking forward, Equity are working with the membership to formulate The Theatre Workers’ Inquiry – a plan for a safe and meaningful return to theatre, whenever that may be. They’ve also been sharing access to mental health support, and running twice-weekly “Equity Zooms in on…” meetings on a variety of topics. These are some of the most recent ones:
● Government Policy
● The Future of Touring
● Circus Performers
● TV, Film and Streaming Services
● Workers Enquiry for Theatre
Times are often tough for actors and creatives, Covid-19 notwithstanding. Membership also includes Public Liability Insurance – personal cover up to £10m, legal claims, and free advice/support in disputes, contract enforcement, and recovery and distribution of monies, negotiating agreements, pay and conditions across the sector. Equity are there for advice on all areas of the industry, as well as Tax, National Insurance, benefits, access to mental, and medical health assistance, and a dedicated Bullying and Harassment reporting line.
The union’s collecting and distribution service will disseminate royalty and repeat fees earned from overseas screening of your work. A wide variety of free workshops and webinars can be accessed right now, through the Federation of Entertainment Unions – from Goal Setting, to Creating a Podcast; Motivation, to Finance for Freelancers, and beyond.
Equity membership automatically reserves your professional name, and since 1997, has an opt-in pension scheme. There is a quarterly magazine and a free annual diary.
You can get involved in campaigns, be an active member of your local branch, attend meetings, be nominated onto (or vote for) a member-led committee, or even Equity Council. If you are based elsewhere you can still benefit – Equity has also established General Branches in Los Angeles and New York, and campaigns for overseas residuals and conditions for members too. The Union strongly encourages members’ input and participation. The Equity card is a universally recognised symbol of your status as a professional, and we are stronger together.
To find out more, see www.equity.org.uk