It’s time for dignity in digs
Earlier this year, UK Theatre agreed to work with Equity on improving standards in accommodation for theatre workers when you are working away from home. We agreed that we would work together to implement a code of conduct for digs providers/hosts – to make sure that the properties available to you through theatre digs lists are well maintained, reasonably priced, safe and welcoming for all theatre workers.
Equity believes that where you stay when you’re away from home is of fundamental importance – and that producers need to recognise that where you stay when you are on a contract with them is not just your problem to solve, but theirs too. Thanks to the work we did in the run up to negotiations, we know it isn’t always the case that you are supported when something goes wrong and the allowances you receive don’t always enable you to find somewhere suitable. Your union believes that you are professionals – and therefore where you stay should be of a professional standard.
We know too that problems with digs are not experienced evenly by our members and other touring theatre workers. Disabled workers, global majority workers, and workers who are – or who are perceived to be – part of the LGBT+ community can face particular barriers and oppressive practices around the provision of accommodation that bosses must do more to fix.
What have we achieved so far?
Thanks to the input of our members, recent negotiations delivered the following improvements:
- Producers across the commercial and subsidised sectors are now responsible for sourcing and providing accommodation for tours travelling to Dublin
- Allowances under the Subsidised Theatre Agreement are now paid four weeks in advance
- Allowances under the Commercial Theatre Agreement are paid between two and four weeks in advance
- Since June 2022, touring allowance on the Commercial Theatre Agreement has risen by 24.5%
But there is still work to do – which is why we continue to campaign for Dignity In Digs.
What happens now?
This document is our first draft for a Dignity in Digs Code of Conduct. It shows what Equity believes hosts, producers, venues, UK Theatre and your union should be responsible for implementing. Compiled by Equity staff and deputies on Commercial touring productions, it reflects what Equity believes is the minimum starting point for our conversations with UK Theatre. In short, it is what we want to see happen. It is not yet agreed, but is what we will be taking into our discussions and arguing for. We will be meeting UK Theatre to start these conversations very soon, and members will be kept fully updated about our progress and how you can be involved in this work.
What happens next?
There are areas of this code will require much greater consultation with members – such as what accessibility information will be required as standard on digs lists, and how a digital only digs list for each venue would work best for all our members. We will be consulting on these specific areas and more besides shortly, but if you have thoughts you want to share you don’t need to wait for us to get in touch with you. Email Equity’s Industrial Official for Theatre, Charlotte Bence (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How can I get involved?
Share your examples of the problems with accommodation you’ve experienced as a theatre worker when you are away from home – whether on a tour or a run in one venue.
If your production does not have an Equity dep among the performers and stage management team, elect people. Deps are centrally involved in the negotiations, and making sure the opinions and ideas of the people on your show are included in this process is vital. Once you’ve elected your dep, or to talk through how to do that, email Charlotte – email@example.com
Accommodation for Theatre Workers: Dignity in Digs Briefing
We prepared this briefing in March 2023, in advance of negotiations with UK Theatre. It provides an overview of Equity’s findings into our members’ experiences with accommodation when they are working away from home in the UK. It includes reference to the experiences of members who have been working on touring productions, and members who have worked away from home on a production taking place in one venue, across both the commercial and subsidised sectors.