08 May 2020
Equity General Secretary Christine Payne spoke to the Chancellor this week and has written an open letter to him following the call, see below.
Christine said: "The closure of Nuffield Southampton Theatre is a reflection of the enormous pressure the entertainment industry, and live performance in particular, is under. I made the point to the Chancellor that we will be one of the last industries to return to any kind of normal and if he wants us to survive this crisis we will need long term support. But the union simply cannot wait for an exit plan to appear, we need to make one. As a consequence, Equity is working on a recovery plan and we will be contacting members soon to get their input into how we bring this industry back from the brink.”
Letter to the Chancellor
Thank you for meeting with me and other trade union leaders on Wednesday.
The trade union movement has a crucial role to play in economic recovery. Equity's priority, since the crisis began, has been not just ensuring the economic security of our members, but also safeguarding the future of the whole of the UK's creative industries, which as you know is worth £111bn.
In the early weeks of shutdown we negotiated agreements throughout the industry to protect our members, but also to recognise the difficulties faced by their engagers. There is now an urgency to develop recovery plans to ensure workplaces and workspaces can reopen safely and with confidence that their work will be financially viable.
It is in this spirit that I repeat my call to you yesterday to provide additional financial assistance for the creative sector.
While it may be possible for some sections of the audiovisual industry to go back to work in the coming months, health and safety issues such as social distancing provide complex challenges to a sector where audiences are an integral part of the experience. We anticipate that the majority of theatres, pubs, comedy clubs and other live entertainment venues across the country will not start to open their doors until early next year - if indeed they manage to survive until then.
In this context the financial risk that is normally borne by self-employed creative workers is greatly multiplied. We therefore urgently need an extension of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme until the end of this year - either in full or in a tapered form.
We also know that a substantial proportion of our members fall through the gaps within the current SEISS – particularly younger workers, parents, carers, those who earn over £50k, those who operate through personal service or limited companies or those who incur large but legitimate business expenses. These groups are looking at a prolonged period without income and desperately need help which is why I also repeat my call to you to consider introducing an additional hardship grant scheme for creative self-employed workers who are not currently eligible for SEISS.
Throughout their history, the UK's creative industries have been incredibly resilient. The unique challenges of this crisis however, could force many large and small arts organisations and venues to close, and end the careers and limit the future work opportunities of thousands of Equity members.
It was incredibly sad to see Southampton Nuffield Theatre fall into administration yesterday and I fear they could be the first of many if we do not intervene now.
General Secretary, Equity