Christine Payne: Brightness in the gloom

As I write this at the beginning of February, there remains no clear course to resolve the problems raised by Brexit.

One positive development has been that Parliament voted against a no deal option. We have been clear all along that exiting the EU with no deal would be a disaster for our members. But, and with Brexit there are a lot of buts, that vote was not binding on the government. So the possibility of no deal remains and that would potentially create a chaotic bureaucracy of multiple visa and work permit systems. This will inevitably be a barrier for our members working in the EU and we are going to make every effort to avoid that happening. If negotiations on a future trade deal do go ahead, we will step up lobbying for a reciprocal multi-entry visa for creative workers as part of it. The UK’s creative economy is a huge success and we need it to be able to survive and thrive during the turbulence of Brexit.

This theme was echoed at a recent Brexit event in Belfast hosted by the union and Irish Equity. In a keynote speech from Josepha Madigan, Ireland’s Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, she reflected on the strength of the audio-visual sector in Ireland and said it is “a truly all-island industry, with directors, actors and production staff fluidly working between the two jurisdictions.”

Putting Brexit aside, there is plenty to celebrate for Equity members. We have secured a 6% rise and an automatic yearly increase until the next renegotiation of our television agreement. Equity’s new distribution service is going from strength-to-strength and has paid out almost 13 million over the past year. Remember, under this new service from Equity, union members pay no commission on the monies they receive. Our campaigning on sexual harassment and bullying continues apace with Equity’s President Maureen Beattie hosting an event on 19 February examining the progress we have made a year after we launched our Agenda for Change report. Furthermore, we have been working with our sister unions at the NUJ, Writers Guild, MU and BECTU at an event featuring UKTheatre, BAFTA, DirectorsUK and The Casting Directors’ Guild to discuss the codes, policies and support that they have developed in this area.

A celebration I hope you may already have joined in with is the 90th anniversary of Equity this year and the My Card My Union campaign. As you may have seen in the latest magazine and on our social media channels, we have been photographing a significant number of our high profile members who wanted to demonstrate their solidarity with their union. This campaign is for all our members and we are asking you to post a selfie with your membership card (remember to hide your number). This is one quick way to show your support and for those who want to become more active in the decision-making process of the union you can put yourself forward to serve on one of our committees, a nomination booklet is included with the magazine and can also be found online here.

Finally, I wanted to congratulate the North East of England General branch for putting on such a successful event for students and graduates called Thrive - building a career in the North East and beyond. The idea came from the branch and Equity staff helped make it happen, which is a perfect example of why our fantastic union has been so successful for the past ninety years.