10 February 2021
Equity is making this statement in direct response to some of the language, tactics and assertions of the #EquitySaveOurStaff campaign which was established in response to changes to staffing in our Glasgow office.
In Glasgow, the organiser/assistant post will be dedicated to Scotland only from 2022, instead of being shared with Northern Ireland. We are intending to appoint a part time official post based in Belfast in early 2022 – giving us a Northern Ireland dedicated official for the first time. Instead of two officials in Glasgow looking after Scotland and Northern Ireland, there will be one, dedicated to Scotland from 2022. This means Glasgow remains, not unreasonably, the best staffed Equity office per member, and Northern Ireland has more staff than ever.
As the Union’s accounts will show, we are facing an enormous industry crisis caused by COVID which leaves Equity with substantial financial instability. We are making changes to 10 posts – 8 in London. These changes include five redundancies, four voluntary. The saving of the whole restructuring will be in excess of £1.1million over 3 years.
Members are of course well within their rights to disagree with union decisions, and many concerned about changes in our Glasgow office have engaged in a comradely and constructive way – even if they have not agreed with the conclusions. The General Secretary has engaged with members in open meetings, private emails and in statements respecting the restructuring process to provide the reasoning behind the decisions, and inform the discussion. However, members are being actively misled about what has occurred by some who have abandoned all sense of reasoned discussion in favour of abuse.
A member of Equity staff has received a ‘poison pen’ letter posted to their home address. An anonymous email was circulated to activists, alleging to be from staff. The contents of this email have been rejected comprehensively by our staff union in a statement which has been circulated to all known recipients. The email breaches data protection regulations. Despite this, it was subsequently published on social media and some members involved in the #EquitySaveOurStaff campaign have continued to circulate it as fact.
Some of the language and assertions which have been directed at the General Secretary, other staff, and unpaid activists do not represent reasonable debate. This language has been on social media, in emails, correspondence and now in an anonymous letter. It includes being called Nazis, Stalinists, mental health slurs, and innuendo about the General Secretary’s protected characteristics. In an email sent to him and all Equity Councillors the General Secretary was called a ‘pimp’, a ‘greasy peddler’, ‘a vindictive man-child’ and said, without evidence, that he ‘lie[s]’, and was a ‘petulant neurotic’.
At the time of an existential crisis for our industries, some of those behind #EquitySaveOurStaff have brought the Union into disrepute. At a time when we are making demands of engagers to incorporate our Safe Spaces policies into collective agreements and enforce them, members have engaged in abuse. Repeatedly, a small number of members have made inaccurate statements, despite clear information to the contrary, which have had the effect of undermining our campaigns to protect members’ livelihoods. No matter how passionately we feel about a decision of the Union, we cannot engage in abusive language toward fellow members or staff – we must direct our energies against the entrenched interests of reckless engagers, producers and governments who are not supporting our members or our industries.
Equity is currently doing all we can to survive as an independent union, and advance our members’ terms and conditions. Staff and activists are working hard so Equity is stronger in the long term, in the face of unprecedented challenges. Equity’s governing body and the General Secretary have a duty to ensure that we are a safe place to both work and be an activist. We will not tolerate abusive debate, uncomradely behaviour or deliberate attempts to undermine the collective interest of members.