I think you do feel you have achieved something by working for an organisation like Equity because you feel you have moved things forward and not only improving things for yourself but for other people as well. To the nervous people I'd say there's nothing to be nervous about. I met a lot of really nice people and found the whole thing really interesting. Jo Brand (former Equity Councillor)
Equity is a membership-driven organisation. Members are at the heart of all the union’s structures and they create our policies. The head of the union is the General Secretary who is elected every 5 years by our members. The current General Secretary is Christine Payne. There are lots of opportunities for members to take an active role in the life of the union and we encourage members to do so:
Council. The main policy forming body is the Equity Council which, from the 2014 election, will consist of 31 members plus the President. Councillors are elected from the membership by the membership in elections which take place every two years. All paid up full Equity members are entitled to both stand in elections and vote in them and we urge you to make use of your vote. The 31 seats cover general interest areas and specific sections such as Variety Circus and Entertainers, Stage Management, Creative Team, Dancers and others, as well as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the regional areas of England. The Council usually meets 12 times per year unless extra, special meetings are called to discuss important matters which may unexpectedly occur. Occasionally the Council issues Instructions To Members; the main instance when this may happen is during industrial disputes and such instructions are binding on all members.
Officers. The Equity President is an Equity member elected by the membership every two years and there are four other Officers. Three of these, the two Vice Presidents and the Honorary Treasurer are members elected from the Council by the Council and the remaining Officer is the General Secretary who heads up the permanent staff. The General Secretary is elected every five years by the members.
Working parties and task forces. These are made up of Equity Councillors, other Equity members and staff and they invite in other people with specialist knowledge to help in the work they are doing.Their purpose is to deal in-depth with specific areas of the industry. These look at trends and issues with a view to ensuring that Equity not only remains informed but can bring influence to bear on behalf of our members on the employers and government and other public bodies. In recent years we have had a Cinema Task Force; a Variety, Light Entertainment and Circus Task Force; a Theatre Task Force and Working Parties on Censorship and Television Commercials.
Committees. We have a number of specialist advisory Committees which again are made up of Equity members with an Equity staff member acting as secretary. The committees concentrate on specific sections of the entertainment business, represent their concerns and views to the Council to create policy and help create materials and information that is of help to the members they represent.
Branches. Members come together regularly at their branches around the country. Branches are created by demand from members and once approved by the Equity Council they provide a focal point for members with the opportunity to get together monthly. Members in branches share views and experiences, put proposals to the Council, organise social events, campaign locally, fundraise for local charities and generally keep in touch with what is going on. Equity Student members are also very welcome to go along and meet more established members and to join in most branch activities. Members volunteer to take an active role in their branch by standing for Branch Chair, Secretary, Public Relations Officer and other roles. Branch Secretaries also give local advice to branch members and those who might be visiting the area for work.
Annual Representative Conference (ARC). This takes place every year, usually in the Spring. It is normally held in London for two years running and then in a different part of the country (the members choose), and is the opportunity for the Council and Representatives from the committees and branches to come together to propose and debate policy, andmove forward the work of the union. Decisions that are passed at the ARC with a two thirds majority are binding on the union and become policy. Representatives are elected and the conference usually lasts for 2 days with the agenda being broken down into debates on Recorded Media, Live Performance, Union Structure, Equality, Health and Safety, Communications and Membership Services. Members who are not involved in a committee or branch but would like to attend the ARC can come as an Observer. Information about how to get a place is always published in the spring issue of the Equity Magazine.
Annual General Meetings (AGMS). These are national and regional meetings, open to all members, at which the relevant committee reports on their activities for the pevious year. The union’s accounts are presented by an Officer or senior member of staff along with an overview of Equity’s work. There is often a guest speaker and always lively discussion along with the chance to network with other members. Motions from AGMs are sent to Council and/or the Annual Representative Conference, so these are another chance to for members to put views forward.
Equity's Organisers. These are the full-time union officials who deal with
- our industrial negotiations and Agreements
- disputes' resolution
- health and safety
- claims for individuals
- troubleshooting on behalf of members
- collaborating closely with our branches and specialist committees.
Organisers visit hundreds of casts each year in their workplaces, at events and elsewhere to meet with members and to talk to non-members about the benefits of belonging to Equity. If your production has not had a visit and you would like an Equity Organiser to come along then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or the nearest Equity office to make arrangements. Full direct contacts for all Equity Organisers and staff are in the Equity diary and members resources.