Industrial news

Equity gains foothold in Theatre in Education sector

Equity signs recognition agreement with Shooting Star Entertainments.

Equity has confirmed a recognition agreement with Shooting Star Entertainments. The agreement represents an important foothold for the union in the Theatre in Education (TiE) sector. 
Shooting Stars will now work under a full Equity agreement that recognises performers (and stage management) as workers in law under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and affords them their basic statutory rights. The agreement exceeds on the basic minimums in many areas.

TiE is a difficult environment in which some unscrupulous producers undercut decent producers and exploit workers to keep the costs offered to schools down.

Commenting on the agreement Kate Maunder, Company Director of Shooting Star Entertainments said: “Theatre in Education often seems to be a forgotten part of the industry, so I have been really pleased to work with Equity on this new agreement. We have already had a positive reaction from our performers about the Equity Agreement and look forward to being part of the change in the TiE sector.”
Equity Official Iain Croker said: “This agreement ensures the performers are treated as workers and afforded their statutory rights. It is a demanding but ultimately rewarding sector to work in and I look forward to meeting the team on a cast visit soon.”

The challenges of TiE

TiE is an important sector for many Equity members. It is often their first experience of professional work. When it’s done properly, performers enjoy fair and dignified terms & conditions. They also get to witness how magical and engrossing theatre can be for children. For many children, TiE provides their only experience of live performing arts.
However, touring TiE performers are often exploited. Our members can assume that the appalling terms and conditions that many companies offer is the acceptable norm within the industry. Some believe that they must endure hardship and undignified terms & conditions before being able to take on dignified work. This makes many less experienced professionals far less likely to push back against appalling practices and collectively improve the industry. Many performers do not know their basic rights in employment law or what they can do if their rights are being denied.
Whilst we are making good inroads to change this situation, it remains a challenge. Equity has been educating our members on their basic rights, and making sure that students know about these rights before starting their professional careers. We are engaging our young members who are often impacted by these issues; we are pro-actively scrutinising and approaching companies, and working with TiE producers so that the terms and conditions in the sector are fair and dignified.
The TiE sector is a good example of how austerity can create a race to the bottom where very few people win, but that does not mean it’s a foregone conclusion that TiE companies must exploit workers. There is a perfectly viable model in which companies in the sector flourish precisely because they offer fair and decent work to performers, not in spite of it. Shooting Stars Entertainments’ commitment to working under a union agreement is a perfect example of that.
Schools should be encouraged to work with TiE providers using union agreements, so they can be confident that they are not supporting unlawful or exploitative practices, and so performers can do their job to their best of their abilities, giving children a safe, enriching and unforgettable experience of theatre.

If members are offered TiE contracts or any type of contract, they should contact their relevant Equity Official for advice. 

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