Equity, the trade union representing more than 48,000 professionals in the entertainment industry — including actors, singers, dancers, comedians, variety artists, stage management, creative team members & supporting artists has elected Paul W Fleming as their new General Secretary.
Fleming will take over from the current General Secretary, Christine Payne, in October of this year when she retires after 15 years in charge. As the union's pioneering first woman General Secretary, Equity's membership has grown exponentially under her leadership, and seen a significant expansion in the scope of its collective agreements.
The decisive result on a strong turnout saw Fleming receive 69% of the vote. He was the candidate nominated by the union's governing body, the Council. His opponent was an Equity member, Simon Curtis, who also currently works as the organiser for Wales and South West England.
Fleming was born in Birmingham in 1988, and is thought to be the first LGBTQ+ General Secretary of a major UK trade union. The first person in his family to go to university, he has a varied background in the labour movement, serving as a local councillor, organising in manufacturing, and running political lobbying & campaigns. He joined Equity in 2011 and has covered all of the union's major collective agreements in theatre in that time; he is currently the Central London Theatres organiser, covering the West End of London, the National Theatre and other major subsidised producing houses.
The Coronavirus pandemic has hit Equity's members in an unprecedented way, and the impact has dominated the election campaign. Fleming has been clear that his immediate priorities will be to continue to lead on the union's 'Four Pillars' approach out of the crisis, address concerns about Equity's approach to equalities, and strengthen its industrial agreements.
Following the result, Christine Payne said:
"It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be Equity's General Secretary and I will miss Equity and the wonderful people in it more than I can say. But I am delighted to be handing the baton into a safe pair of hands. Paul has a tremendous commitment to Equity and the trade union movement and also he has the experience, focus and energy to lead us through the unprecedented crisis facing our industry and the professional lives of our members."
On his election, Paul W Fleming said:
"The greatest honour of my life coincides with the greatest crisis for our members. The coronavirus has laid bare the pandemic of precariousness which besets every worker in our industry, and started long before March 2020. I'm determined to spend every waking hour on a pragmatic roadmap toward a radically different future for our industry. We deserve an inclusive future which puts working people first.
"Following in the footsteps of Christine Payne is no mean feat, and I want to pay tribute to her incredible work as our first woman General Secretary. I am indebted to every member who's supported me, voted for me and engaged in this election - I cannot thank you enough for this chance to serve our union."
On the announcement Simon Curtis said:
"I congratulate Paul on his new role and wish him the best of luck, especially at this difficult time for our union and our members. I look forward to working with him as I continue to serve the members who live and work in Wales and South West England as National and Regional Organiser. We must, and will continue to support all our members, improving and protecting their interests, in the pursuit of work, in employment and, at the forefront, campaigning for greater opportunities."