As Covid restriction lifting is delayed, Equity General Secretary says the Government's approach is "catastrophic" for performing arts workers

With the Government set to confirm a four-week delay to the lifting of Covid restrictions, those who work in live performance are worried about what this will mean for their livelihoods. 
 
If social distancing and the current 50% audience capacity limit at venues remains in place, the lack of financial viability means many establishments will stay closed. In turn, workers and Equity members will not have jobs to go to. 
 
While he says "there's no dispute that public health comes first", Equity General Secretary, Paul W Fleming, has called the Government's approach "a catastrophic blow to Equity’s members and their live performance workplaces".
 
In a statement, produced below in full, the General Secretary calls for real grants for producers to make up for reduced capacity, a government-backed insurance scheme, and reform to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) – which 40% of Equity members have been excluded from for reasons such as doing too much work on PAYE, operating through a limited company, or taking time off to have children or care for others. 
 
The General Secretary goes on to criticise the "unspent, poorly constructed Culture Recovery Fund", which has seen money go to institutions and venues, with very little finding its way to workers. 
 
As Equity has highlighted throughout the pandemic, for many creative workers, the Covid-19 has only exacerbated long-standing issues such as low pay, job insecurity and a lack of diversity in the industry.

​Statement from Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming in full:

“The Government’s approach today is once again a catastrophic blow to Equity’s members and their live performance workplaces – from pubs and clubs to theatres. There’s no dispute that public health comes first, but the Government can’t just expect a limitless reserve of resilience from our industry.
 
Introducing real grants to commercial and subsidised producers to make up for reduced capacity could transform the number of shows which are open. Government-backed insurance, successfully in place for TV and film, is long overdue to remove the ongoing uncertainty. Equity members need serious reform to Self-Employment Income Support right through to the end of this calendar year – or there will be no talent to keep the creative industry powerhouse running.
 
The government cannot present their unspent, poorly constructed Culture Recovery Fund and a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – which excludes 40% of Equity’s members –​ entirely as an adequate response. They’ve had over a year to protect the industry which shut first and will open last. Not stepping up risks permanent damage to our economy, global standing and, most importantly, the art and entertainment audiences can access.”​
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