Equity's General Secretary reacts to second lockdown announcement

Paul W Fleming, Equity General Secretary:

“Equity members will have felt a mixture of rage and confusion after tonight’s announcement from the Prime Minister. Our union is here to voice that anger, and provide some clarity.

For members working in film and TV we can give clarity: under this new national lockdown from Thursday, film and TV production will continue. This is testament to our success in ensuring a strong culture of testing and health & safety for our members working in those sectors. Thanks to our efforts, and those of the whole industry, a decent, albeit imperfect, insurance scheme will keep these workplaces open.

For members looking to return to work in theatre, variety, circus and light entertainment, tonight is a body blow. Live performance workplaces are the keystones of our whole industry, which is worth as much to the economy as banking. Now the government has mandated their closure they must immediately look again at the lack of funds to safely create work, a proper insurance scheme to speed up opening, and adequate funding to protect infrastructure from pubs & clubs to the West End.

Every member, however, will be sickened at the lack of any reference to the self-employed tonight. 40% of Equity members have not received a penny from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) since March - and now they don’t even deserve a mention. We need the scheme expanded and extended or the trickle of lost talent will become a flood overnight.

Finally, on behalf of Equity, I want to express our solidarity with working people across education, construction, manufacturing, the civil service, distribution and postal services, retail and of course our NHS and social care. Whether key workers keeping our society afloat, or those put at risk unnecessarily, we know that it’s the workers who are the heroes of this public health crisis.

We also know that ordinary working people across the trade union movement will stand with our members as we protect our industry now, and in the months to come. They know that access to culture isn’t a luxury for the few, and that without the work Equity members do as artists, entertainers and creatives this winter would look unimaginably worse.”