Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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Low pay no pay — a fresh approach for the union

23 February 2012

Work in the entertainment industry offered at low rates of pay or for no pay at all continues to cause significant concern among members, but what is less clear is what approach Equity should take.

Some members believe Equity should try to put a stop to all no pay/low pay work, others think that they should have the freedom to accept low pay/no pay work without hindrance from their union. This thorny issue caused significant debate at Equity’s 2011 Conference. To move policy forward the Equity Council last Autumn set up a working party of members which after four meetings presented a report to Council at its February 2012 meeting.  It was clear to the Working Party that young people were the most likely to be involved in areas of low paid or unpaid work and that women are particularly vulnerable because of dwindling work opportunities as they got older.

The Working Party came up with 19 recommendations, all of which were backed by the Council. They include:
•    a leaflet explaining the issues to members and more information on the web site;
•    guidance for members on co-operatives, partnership and business partnership arrangements;
•    Equity to encourage the development of a fringe theatre network;
•    Council agreed to tighten its statement on fringe theatre;
•    Equity guidelines for youth, students and community groups in sub rep theatres should be updated;
•    Equity should research the effects of co-productions and look into actors in film school productions;
•    drama schools to be told what are acceptable terms and conditions when they employ Equity members;
•    more encouragement to members to fight National Minimum Wage cases;
•    casting websites should be persuaded, not to include low pay/no pay work.

There were a number of particularly challenging issues on which the Working Party was unable to reach a consensus. These included:
•    Should Equity sponsor a ‘kite mark’ of approval for companies that pay at least the Equity minimum?
•    Should Equity recommend an ‘open book’ policy for low pay/no pay companies?
•    Should Equity promote a ‘fair trade’ policy for no pay/low pay productions?

Members of the Working Party were: Kate Bancroft, Peter Barnes, Ian Barritt, Sharon Cannings, David Cockayne, Karina Cornell, Bryn Evans, Jenny Goodall, Graham Hamilton, Kasper Hansen,Tom Hescott, Andrew Macbean, John Plews, Graeme Reid, Jean Rogers, Claude Starling, Abigail Tarttelin, Lee Ravitz and Sarah Cowan.

Staff members attending Working Party meetings were Stephen Spence, Tim Gale and Paul Fleming

The report can be downloaded from For more information about what was decided at the February meeting of the Equity Council go to:

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