Christine Payne: A voice for creative workers

This year is the 150th Anniversary of the Trade Union Congress and I am delighted to report that Equity was invited to join the TUC’s Executive Committee in September. We follow in the footsteps of the National Union of Journalists and the Musicians’ Union in taking a seat at the top level of our movement and, like them, we will seek to give a voice to all creative workers at this time of immense change and uncertainty.

We will use this opportunity and others to continue to get the best possible outcome from Brexit for our members and for our industries. We are stepping up our efforts to lobby here in the UK and at European level to maintain funding, workers’ rights, intellectual property protections and freedom of movement, as well as articulating our concerns about the future of the sector in the event of ‘no deal’ or the imposition of a hard border in Ireland. Most recently we have played a leading part in creating an alliance of performers’ unions and employers across the live and audio visual industries in Europe who have spoken out in support of our position.

Equity will continue to strongly campaign to ensure any government deal respects our members’ demands. If a ‘no deal’ scenario emerges in the coming weeks the union will further consider its position in relation to the additional action required to protect our members’ interests.

A recent success to celebrate is the new Directors Agreement. Pay rises of more than 20% is an incredible deal and means that those directors working at or near the minimum fees will receive a substantial and immediate increase of 5% or 6% - compared to increases in average earnings in the whole economy of 2.4%.

The hard work and commitment of members of Equity’s Directors and Designers Committee over the last twelve months, supported by Hilary Hadley, head of live performance and Jamie Briers, south east area organiser, has been crucial to this success. I must also recognise the vital contribution made by Stage Directors UK who stood alongside us during
the negotiations.

One of the next agreements up for negotiation is for stage designers. The role of the designer is incredibly important to the success of a production, but they remain one of the most unsung of the creative team. We will be fighting for the best deal possible for them and we will be taking the opportunity to celebrate the great work that they do.

I also want to congratulate the Circus Network on its launch event at the National Centre for Circus Arts in September. The union designated 2018 as our Year of the Circus as it is also the 250th anniversary of the art form. We have been part of the many events celebrating circus throughout the year, but it is through this network that we will be able to effect lasting change for this fascinating sector.

Non-members and members of Equity alike benefit from these activities and our collective agreements – but of course our continuing strength relies on our ability to demonstrate to employers and engagers that we represent and speak for a united group of working people who have chosen to join and support their union.

Finally, I would like to encourage all members to vote in the Rule Change Referendum by 30 November, details of which are included in the latest magazine.