15 March 2022
For latest update see Irish Equity press release dated 11 April 2022 - "Irish Equity seeks parity of treatment with UK/NI colleagues on ROI film productions"
Members of Equity and Irish Equity have joined forces to call for equal treatment for performers working on international co-productions in Ireland. Currently, international production companies are applying lesser terms and conditions to Ireland-based performers.
International companies making television series and films deny equal rights to local performers on production sets in Ireland, even though many of these entities receive generous subsidies under the Section 481 Film Tax Credit. When working on the same film or TV production, UK performers do so on standard Equity UK union contracts that entitle them to receive payment for royalties, residuals and repeats, while their Irish colleagues are on non-union contracts that do not.
Many production companies in the Republic offer buy-outs to actors who then lose appropriate royalties and protection for their performances while their employers enjoy government tax breaks and licence fee revenues.
The call from Irish Equity and Equity UK follows an historic first meeting of both unions. At the meeting, members of both unions insisted that film productions in Ireland must ensure equal and fair terms and conditions for all professional performers, through collective bargaining and agreement with union representatives.
Union members also agreed to mobilise their colleague actors to stop unfair practices and ensure fair treatment as their audiences would expect. Both unions will now work together to ensure the value of Irish, UK and international talent and the contribution they make to the global film and TV industry are recognised, and that all performers are engaged on decent union contracts.
Screen Ireland has confirmed that a record-breaking €500 million was spent on the screen industry in Ireland in 2021, surpassing the previous record in 2019 by 40%. Meanwhile, an objective of Northern Ireland Screen is for Northern Ireland to have the strongest screen industry outside of London in the UK and Ireland.
Paul Fleming, General Secretary at Equity, said: "We are very pleased to have, for the first time, brought together Irish Equity and Equity members in the UK and Northern Ireland to discuss a critical issue about film and TV production rights on the island of Ireland. We want to continue to work with Irish Equity and members of both Unions to showcase how important it is that the terms and conditions are equitable for those working in film and TV all over Ireland, to harmonise our expectations of fair treatment and ensure a good deal from producers.
Gerry O’Brien, President of Irish Equity said: “Both Unions have been compromised by the dominant position exercised by producers in imposing lesser terms and conditions in their agreements on Irish based performers in the Republic of Ireland. At the point of production, in both television series and films, the minimum terms and conditions for the engagement of performers can favour non- resident performers over local hire. Most crucially, the assignment of performers rights, which are protected in legislation, fall far below the international norm. It is these rights which produce ‘residual payments’ for performers.”