International news

International solidarity on May Day

On International Workers' Day, 1 May, we look at the past, present and future of Equity’s commitment to standing alongside workers the world over.

Equity has a long tradition of standing alongside workers overseas when faced with exploitation and oppression.

Our first General Secretary, Alfred M. Wall, was a vice-president of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee, which sent medical supplies to republicans fighting the fascist coup in Spain in the 1930s. In 1973, Equity worked to secure visas to the UK for Chilean artists fleeing persecution under Pinochet’s regime. And in 1976, in the face of apartheid, Equity banned tours and TV programme sales to South Africa until 1993.

International Workers' Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves why extending support and solidarity to workers in other countries remains an essential part of our trade union and the labour movement. Production and distribution in our industries is, more than ever before, done by transnational companies. These companies move their money and operations relatively easily between countries as they seek to minimise costs. International solidarity, then, is not only about protecting artists abroad but about preventing the erosion of working conditions for artists everywhere, including our own members in the UK.

Our international work is also grounded in our recognition of Britain’s imperial legacy. Britain continues to be a centre for extraction of resources from the Global South, undermining collective power of workers, generating poverty and fostering political instability. As a British trade union, we owe it to workers overseas to work towards repairing this damage. 

These are some of the reasons we continue to foster close ties with sister unions across the world. Having founded the International Federation of Actors alongside our sister union in France in 1953, Equity continues to work through FIA to coordinate international lobbying and facilitate international solidarity with more than 90 trade unions from 60 countries.

We also pursue partnerships with individual sister unions, such as the Asociacion Colombiana de Actores in Colombia. Following an Equity delegation to Colombia last year, a delegation of their members will join us for Equity Conference where their leader will address our members. At an international reception during Conference, we will also be joined by trade unionists from unions we work with in the USA (where we have given our full backing to SAG-AFRTA strikes), Canada, Palestine and Cuba.


Equity delegation to Columbia
Equity delegation to Columbia


More than words and gestures

International solidarity is about more than words and gestures; it has to mean concrete practical and industrial support for artists overseas. That is why we plan to develop initiatives to share knowledge and skills with our sister union in Colombia to help them fight for better pay and conditions for Colombian artists.

Equity also provides financial support to artists abroad. Since the crisis in Gaza began to unfold last year, Equity has sent £7,000 to support Alrowwad, our Palestinian sister union, to provide desperately needed shelter. Our International Solidarity Committee continues to provide financial support to artists facing persecution, oppression or hardship in other countries, often with no union in their country to help them.
International Workers Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves that artists everywhere suffer the same challenges as our members: erosion of their pay and conditions, use of AI technologies which undermines their autonomy and data rights, and threats to artistic freedom of expression, to name a few.

If capital behaves globally, so too must our labour movement.

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