The demo at Phoenix Dance Theatre, Leeds, tomorrow (Monday 23 May) at 9.15am is to demand that the contemporary dance company reverse their decision to lay off dancers, as well as call for an end to the job precarity experienced by performing artists.
Alongside two permanent staff dancers who are due to be laid off while Phoenix undergoes a "creative pause" from June 2022 to January 2023, there are six dancers on fixed-term contracts whose contracts have ended following the company's final 40th anniversary performance.
Phoenix Dance Theatre has also recently been in receipt of millions of pounds of public funding from the Arts Council and Leeds City Council, among others.
The demo will take place at the Northern Ballet building, where Phoenix Dance Theatre is housed, on St Cecilia Street, Quarry Hill, Leeds LS2 7PA, at 9.15am. Equity welcomes both members and non-members to join the demo in solidarity with the affected dancers. The union will also hand in a petition — which has so far gained over 1,000 signatures — calling on Charis Charles, Chief Executive of Phoenix Dance Theatre to save the jobs.
The demo comes during Equity's Annual Representative Conference (ARC) which is being held in Leeds over Saturday 21 May — Monday 23 May. At ARC, an emergency motion was unanimously passed in favour of the union continuing to challenge Phoenix Dance Theatre management to treat staff fairly, reverse its decision on layoffs and engage in proper and meaningful negotiations. You can read the emergency motion in full below.
Two of the affected Equity members who work for Phoenix Dance Theatre spoke at ARC and received a standing ovation, with one of the members saying that Phoenix couldn't expect them to survive on the pay offered while they are laid off, especially during the cost of living crisis.
Emergency Motion 1: Council
This ARC notes with alarm the actions of Phoenix Dance Theatre to implement a pause of its creative work and lay off its dancers.
Whilst an organisation is free to make creative decisions, such decisions should ensure that staff are treated fairly and are properly consulted.
The use of layoffs — a piece of legislation that was intended to apply at times of shortage of materials in factories or dockyards — is not applicable to creative professionals and is unacceptable.
Expecting creative professionals to survive on a paltry £100 per month, for the next 7 months, is unacceptable.
Asking staff to identify their trade union membership is unacceptable.
Phoenix Dance Theatre has failed in its duties as an employer but we will not fail our members there.
This ARC calls on the Council to continue to challenge Phoenix Dance Theatre management to treat staff fairly, reverse its decision on layoffs and engage in proper and meaningful negotiations.