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Yorkshire Ridings Branch Annual Report 2012-13

14 October 2013

 

Highlights of the Year

We wish to start this Annual Report with a number of positives:

During the year, we held three successful Branch Meetings. In November 2012 we had our first ever Branch Meeting in York at which Equity Vice-President Jean Rogers spoke on “How the Media Controls our Image - The Fight Goes On!” In the light of the success of this meeting, the Branch Committee decided to hold the 2013 Annual General Meeting in York. In February 2013, James Brining the new Artistic Director at West Yorkshire Playhouse addressed the branch. In June 2013, the branch had a double first when we arranged a meeting at ITV Yorkshire and had Emmerdale Casting Directors Faye Styring and Sophie Poulston as our speakers. With over 40 members present, this was the best attended Branch Meeting for several years.

The Branch raised the funding to cover the expenses for new Committee member Yvonne Okyere-Whalley to attend Equity’s 2013 Annual Representative Conference (ARC) as an Observer. Equity Yorkshire Ridings General Branch wishes to thank Morrish Solicitors for their sponsorship which has enabled this.

The Branch has also commissioned a Trades Union Banner for Equity’s Yorkshire area, which will be presented to the Branch at the Annual General Meeting. Equity Yorkshire Ridings General Branch wishes to thank Unity Trust Bank and Morrish Solicitors for their sponsorship of this new Banner. Thank you also to Humberside Variety and South Yorkshire Variety Branches for their donations and to Amy Wass for her work on the Banner design.

The Branch has raised £600 in Sponsorship during 2013, which is a great achievement and one that we are unlikely to repeat for some time. We also applied for and received the maximum amount of Equity’s National Branch Funding we were entitled to.

The Branch’s membership grew to over 700 during the year.

 

Branch Meetings

The Branch held seven meetings during 2012-13: 24 November 2012 York Theatre Royal, speaker Equity Vice-President Jean Rogers – 17 Branch members attended; 12 February 2013 West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds (WYP), speaker WYP Artistic Director James Brining – 13 members attended; 9 March 2013 WYP Leeds - 8 members attended; 9 April 2013 WYP Leeds – 7 members attended; 13 May 2013 Darts, Doncaster, joint meeting with South Yorkshire Variety Branch, speaker Executive Director of Cast, Doncaster’s new theatre Kully Thiarai – 6 members attended; 12 June 2013 ITV Yorkshire Leeds, speakers Emmerdale Casting Directors Faye Styring and Sophie Poulston – 40 members attended; 13 July 2013 WYP Leeds, speakers Equity Young Members Committee members Kezia Davis and Mal Kutub – 6 members attended.

The May meeting was the first time the Branch has held a meeting in Doncaster. It is disappointing that out of the seven meetings held, four attracted less than 10 members and were thus inquorate. This meant that the Branch was not able to take policy decisions at those meetings and was unable to submit an amendment to an ARC motion in 2013. Having had a huge attendance at the June Branch meeting, it was disappointing that this didn’t trickle down into a larger attendance at the July meeting. The Branch Committee has tried to offer an interesting programme of speakers during the year, but unfortunately, at a number of meetings this has not attracted as many members as we would have liked. It was good news that the Branch was able to return to West Yorkshire Playhouse for its meetings. Sadly, WYP meetings for the most part have not been well attended. It was also an achievement to stage a meeting for the first time at ITV Yorkshire. Regrettably after the large attendance this meeting attracted, ITV Yorkshire has decided against hosting future Equity Branch Meetings. Nigel Jones, our Regional Organiser has written to ITV Yorkshire urging them to reverse this policy.

In the past, the Branch has arranged meetings approximately once every two months. During the year, the Branch Committee decided to increase the frequency of Branch Meetings so that these should now take place during most months of the year.

 

Equity Policy Matters

The 2012 ARC passed a Yorkshire Ridings Branch amendment to a motion which called for Equity to provide Equal Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination training for Branch Officers and Committee members. We are glad to report that we saw the first implementation of this at the Branch Secretaries meeting held in London this Summer.

The Branch Committee has been calling for Equity to provide Induction and Training for Branch Officers and committee members. After our request for this was unanswered by the Union nationally, the Branch, at its February meeting, agreed to send a motion to this effect to the Equity Council. The Council subsequently accepted our motion and there have been both Branch Secretaries’ and Branch Treasurers’ Training Days in London this year. The Branch Committee feels however that locally based training that is available to other Committee members too needs to be provided.  

During the year, the Branch has made a number of other unsuccessful attempts to shape Union policy. The Branch’s motion to the ARC called for the monitoring of the new Equity structure and how it affects members in English regions and members previously represented by the abolished specialist committees. However, this motion was lost along with most of the other motions on the Union’s structure.

The February Branch meeting submitted a motion to the Council calling for changes to the General Branch Committee Election procedure that would enable Branch members to elect the Branch Officers (at present the General Branch Committee elects the officers) and would allow members to be elected to the Branch Committee with full rights at the AGM. This would have brought General Branch Election procedure into line with Variety Branch election procedure. While the Officers and Senior Management Team supported our motion, the Council defeated it. It seems that the Councillors who led the move to defeat this motion didn’t fully understand what we were proposing and we are hoping the Council will reconsider this.

The June Branch meeting submitted a motion to the Council calling on Equity nationally to cover the cost of Speakers Expenses for Councillors and National Committee members to address branch meetings. While Equity covers the expenses for members of staff to speak at branch meetings, Branches themselves are expected to meet the expenses of Councillors and National Committee members. The Council however rejected this proposal on the grounds that “The finances of the union continue to be precarious. If a branch wishes to have guest speakers who need expenses to be paid they might consider specific fund-raising activities to meet those expenses.”

 

My Theatre Matters!

My Theatre Matters! has brought Equity, The Stage and the Theatrical Management Association together in a campaign to support funding for local theatres. Theatres across the UK are urging audiences to voice their support to their local Council for maintaining theatre funding.

Local authorities have been facing massive cuts. Some Council leaders are warning that by 2018 they will not be able to meet their statutory duties, let alone discretionary ones such as the Arts. The cuts are targeted at urban areas where most funded theatres are located. Arts Council cuts to theatres started in April 2011, business sponsorship is declining and some local authorities are seeing cuts to Arts funding as an easy target. 

In the Branch’s area, The Lyceum, Crucible and Crucible Studio and have been hit with cuts of £106,000, as a result of Sheffield City Council funding reductions. 25 theatres in Barnsley, Bradford, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Goole, Grimsby, Halifax, Harrogate, Hoyland, Hull, Leeds, Malton, Richmond, Scarborough, Sheffield, Wakefield and York are supporting the My Theatre Matters campaign.

The Branch has urged two other theatres in the area to join the campaign and encouraged members to support My Theatre Matters!

If you have not signed up to the campaign yet, please do so at http://www.mytheatrematters.com. Please also write to the leader of your local council and your local MP. Suggestions of what to say can be found in the Resources section of the My Theatre Matters web site. The campaign can also be followed on Twitter at @theatre_matters. Please keep shouting about the My Theatre Matters campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Miss Representation

Miss Representation is a film that explores how media misrepresentation of women has led to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence. Made in the USA, the documentary was written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

The branch has approached some of Yorkshire’s independent cinemas to ask them to screen the film. While no screenings have been arranged, Hebden Bridge Picture House, Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds and the NationalMediaMuseum in Bradford have all said they will consider arranging a screening. The Showroom Cinema in Sheffield however has decided against arranging a public screening.

Equity’s 2012 ARC passed a motion urging the making of a British version of the film.

 

Welfare Reform

Many welfare benefits claimed by Equity members are being abolished in the government's welfare reforms.  Universal Credit will replace income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit and many others. 

The Branch promoted the Universal Credit Seminars that Equity held in Leeds and Sheffield in the Branch Newsletter and a number of Branch members attended these.

In our October E-Newsletter, the Branch published a longer article about the benefits changes.

Equity operates an Advice and Rights Helpline on 020 7670 0223 on Mondays and Thursdays between 10am - 1pm and 2pm - 5pm. Advice given covers tax, national insurance, welfare benefits, tax credits and other related areas. Alternatively, members can e-mail legalandwelfare@equity.org.uk for help.

 

Devoted and Disgruntled

The Devoted and Disgruntled nationwide conversation on the future of theatre came to West Yorkshire Playhouse in October 2012. Several Branch members took part in some of over 50 sessions on offer ranging from ‘West Yorkshire Playhouse: What do you want it to be/do?’ to ‘Ageism or experience’ and ‘When does emerging artist start and end, and is there a recipe for it’. Branch officers Audrey Pointer and Pete Keal ran a useful session entitled ‘What Can or Should Equity be doing about all this???’.

 

Organisation and Communications

The Branch believes that good communication with our members is crucial and has sought to improve its publicity and promotion over the year. We have moved over to sending out most of our Newsletters by e-mail. However a print version is produced for members who prefer it and a Large Print version is made available for download from the Branch web site. The Branch has made efforts to join up its different media resources so that for example the Branch’s web site, RSS News feed and Facebook page are all linked to from our Newsletters.

During the year, the Branch set up its own e-mail address: equity.yrgb@gmail.com. This means that while Branch officers will change over the years, the Branch e-mail address should remain the same.

A Branch Committee Google Group has been set up to facilitate the exchange of e-mail between Committee members.   

A Standard Agenda for Branch Meetings has been published on the Branch web site to give members a better idea of what we discuss when we meet. Minutes of Branch Meetings can also be downloaded from the web site. Members have to log in to the Equity Web site in order to download these.

The Branch’s bank account has been moved to Unity Trust Bank. Owned by the Trades Unions and the Co-operative Bank, Unity Trust offers specialist banking for trades unions, charities, voluntary organisations and campaigns, local authorities, credit unions, social enterprises and community interest groups.

Finally, the Branch has co-ordinated an Equity Yorkshire Area leaflet that has been published by Equity’s North East Region.

 

The Wider Trades Union Movement

Trades Councils bring unions together to campaign on issues affecting people in their workplaces and local communities and the Branch has been seeking to affiliate to all the Trades Councils in the area. Eleanor Dearle now represents the Branch on Barnsley Trades Council. Our delegate Anthony Blakesley is the Vice-President of Doncaster and District Trades Union Council. Joy Palmer represents the Branch on Sheffield Trades Union Council and our delegate Pete Keal is Treasurer of Calderdale Trades Council. In addition, Humberside Variety Branch is now sending Equity delegates to Hull and District Trades Council and Northern Lincolnshire Trades Union Council.

We know of other Trades Councils in Bradford, East Yorkshire, Huddersfield, Keighley, Leeds, Rotherham, Scarborough and York and there may be more. The Branch would like to elect delegates to each of these Trades Councils.

The Branch was represented on the TUC’s ‘A Future That Works’ Demonstration in London in October 2012. Branch members also joined the Northern Towns Against Cuts demonstration in Halifax in February 2013. More recently Branch members Eleanor Dearle and Pete Keal took the new Equity Yorkshire Area Banner to the TUC’s ‘Save Our NHS, Defend Jobs and Services, No to Austerity’ March and Rally in Manchester.

The Branch agreed to become a friend of Durham Miners Gala and made a donation to the Doncaster and District TUC’s Workers Memorial Day Financial Appeal to relocate a plaque and plant a tree.

The Branch voted to support the Coalition of Resistance People’s Assembly but was not represented at the London event.

  

Looking Ahead

While the Branch Committee has achieved a lot that it can be proud of since the last Annual General Meeting, there is room to improve further. It would be good to achieve better attendance at Branch meetings. To do this, we need to improve both how we engage with and what we offer to members and we want to hear all ideas and suggestions as to how we can achieve this.

The Branch will continue to hold meetings in different parts of the area. A Branch meeting has never been held in Hull and we must rectify this. We also need to organise meetings in other parts of the area where we haven’t met for a long time, if ever before. This report has highlighted the problems we are having with our Leeds meetings and we may need to meet in Leeds less often.

The Branch Committee has decided to organise a pilot Area Surgery, again at a location where the Branch has not held a meeting. At this, members would be invited to meet someone who could advise on areas such as Tax, Pensions, Benefits or Legal matters. Members of the Branch Committee as well as the local Variety Branch Committee if they wish, would also be available to talk to members who attend about Equity and their Branches.

Yorkshire is a huge area over which to organise a Trades Union Branch and connecting with members across the whole county is a challenge. It may be that our members would be better served by having more General Branches each covering a smaller area. Whether Yorkshire Ridings General Branch remains, or such a change is eventually implemented, the Union would benefit from an increase in activism on the part of our members.

  

Officers and Committee 2012-13

Chair: Joy Palmer; Vice-Chair: Audrey Roselyn Pointer; Secretary: Pete Keal; Assistant Secretary: Anthony Blakesley; Treasurer: David Charles Denwood; Committee members: Richard Dobson, Natalie Hunt aka Madame Zucchini, Yvonne Okyere-Whalley.

 

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