Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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Summary of Jan Meeting - AGM 2012 & John Ainslie Equity SE Regional Organiser & Branch Officer

21 January 2013

AGM - chaired efficently & effectively as ever by Chair Billy McColl & off to an interesting session with John Ainslie.

Highlights & bullet points were:

  • John's theatrical background of actress mother & designer father meant possibly always destined for the arts - 1st job at Blue Box Keswick in 1972
  • Youngest councillor when joined Equity & joined staff in 1987
  • SE Regional Organiser mainly in Variety - a general purpose role covering mainly live work. 3 variety branches then, now only 1. 1 General Branch
  • Branch Officer - looking after 11 branches & John had not envisioned the demands that would occur.
  • Re recent referendum when only 6% voted: Not to be discouraged  & not a big a problem as is sometimes made out - as although many members not sure how the union works - they just know that it DOES work.
  • Minority of members want to know how  things work & to re-invigotate the union.
  • Need to re-engage members & be strategic in thinking.
  • Where do Branches fit in: 
  1. When membership was high - negotiations have more strength & power ie West End Agreeement - 80% TMA/Commercial Agreement - low membership which widely ignored an instruction not to sign: result TMA saw Equity had no support & tore up the Agreement.
  2. We are a remarkably useful Trade Union & need to raise our profile
  3. Potential members have to know that Equity exists & is RELEVANT to them " 'I don't usually work on Equity contracts' 'I often work unpaid so Equity would disapprove'  WE HAVE TO REDRESS THOSE IMAGES / FEELINGS.
  4. Equity needs to be part of actors lives - if know of things going awry - raise the issue at Branch - what is HO doing to support us in this - NOT 'what is Equity doing... they should make a law'.
  5. Branches are EQUITY locally, like a workplace branch in other industries - more likely to hear advice from fellow members than Guild House because of  eshared experience & knowledge & common sense approach,
  6. Training is available to Spread the Word at Guild House to Drama Schools etc
  • We have within Branch already started the process of LINKING LONDON BRANCHES with Chars Fiona Whitelaw & Andrew McBean's branches. - John said Guild House would fully support this.
  • Variety & General merging - still intractable & likely to be so until the variety 'old guard' go. Still viewed as both parties work differently when patently obvious that we are all working in the same way more & more. Essex Branch Motio starting the debate was voted off.
  • Read Maria Millar - Culture Secretary Blog - terrifying!
  • 'Can we survive solely or need we join with FEU'? - JH - feel that is last resort, need to think strategically in mid/long term. We can't survive with subs as they are for definite. SUGGESTION has been to raise subs MUGH HIGHER & therefore a much smaller union with more money - Branch view - ELITIST!!! Where is the place for Rank & File - which historically is what the Union is about.
  • IB - There should be more time spent in reorganisation of staff spending more time with working actors not spent too much with committees but getting out into the workforce.
  • LOW PAY NO PAY - IB - We can't as a Union give an edict that memebers CAN'T work for no money but can educate members to make informed decisions.
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