Unions secure fair pay for creatives working at Commonwealth Games

  • Nationally agreed rates of pay for cultural sector to be respected
  • Community and voluntary workers to supplement not replace paid work
  • Promoting diversity and equality at heart of the strategy

Last week the Commonwealth Games kicked off with an opening ceremony featuring thousands of performers. We’re delighted that ahead of the opening, we secured a landmark agreement to ensure all artists and creatives who work during the Games are paid fairly and that Equity agreed rates of pay are respected. The pledge, signed by cultural sector trade unions and the Commonwealth Games organisers, also enshrined that the Games works to support the long term health of the creative sector in the region and actively promotes diversity.

The agreement has been made in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Organising Committee for the Commonwealth Games and cultural sector unions BECTU, Equity, Musicians’ Union and the TUC (pictured above).

The MOU ensures that the nationally recognised rates of pay for creatives will be adhered to eliminating the risk of a race to the bottom on pay. Further, it makes clear the difference between volunteers, community art and professional work. In so doing trust and confidence has been built that will allow the full involvement of communities alongside properly paid and respected professional artists.

In building a lasting cultural legacy, the MOU sets out a commitment to ‘support and promote diversity in the engagement of professional creative sector workers who are based in Birmingham and the Midlands in order to support the long term cultural and economic prosperity of the region.’

E. M. Williams, Equity member and performer in the opening ceremony says:

“Having a Windrush heritage, my thoughts around the Commonwealth Games are often conflicted. In conversation with my Jamaican father about the effects of Colonialism, he said that the games for him and those who came to reside here from across the seas were a great leveller - a place to literally level the playing field, and where ambition, hard work, and talent can shine in all colours.

“Having union contracts in place for the performers of the Commonwealth opening ceremony and other such cultural and sporting events opens a welcome invite for our best and boldest performers, and ensures they are respected by the morals and values of hard work paying off fairly in one of the UK's biggest celebrations of diverse talent.

“In short, these negotiations with unions are invaluable to protect and level the playing field for performing arts workers, and give them the strongest foundations to shine.”

Lee Barron, TUC Midlands Regional Secretary, said:

“The Commonwealth Games belongs to all of us. And that includes the professional artists who will play such an integral role in bringing the Games to life throughout this wonderful summer carnival of sport.

“And that is why it is right that the Commonwealth Games have signed this agreement with our cultural unions. Performers have, for too long, been exploited and taken for granted.

“With artists rewarded fairly, community involvement championed and diversity and long-term support for our cultural economy at the heart of the strategy, this is an agreement is truly a landmark agreement.

“Now let the games begin.”