Associated Studios never fails to invite brilliant people from the industry to come in and talk to us, sharing very valuable information in order for us to grow as artists. This week, we had the wonderful Rosie Archer come in who works in Membership and Recruitment Co-Ordinator at Equity UK.
Rosie began by giving us a brief history of Equity which was formed in 1929 by a small group of actors who were unhappy with the state of the entertainment industry. They formed Equity because they realised when they were speaking out against exploitation and bad practice that they were unfortunately experiencing, it was a better idea to form Equity as a group in order to speak out against the mistreatment together. Rosie then happily elucidated that they have been continuing to run the company for ninety-one years and now have forty-eight thousand members which are important to know because as an actor, when you are working in the big industry, the strength of the membership means that everyone is safer and stronger which means that you are less at risk than being all on your own. The wonderful part is that Equity doesn’t only represent actors, they also represent singers, dancers, models and even wrestlers, overall, anyone working in the performing industry. Equity is also a democratic organisation because as a union, they are led by their members, so when it comes to the projects and the work that they do, it is all from the suggestions and the ideas from the members, which is not just the council and the committees.
Rosie then continued by giving us more information about what an actor gets when they sign up to Equity. She explained to us about Equity Minimum which is a minimum benchmark rate that you get paid when you work on an Equity job; depending on what type of work you do, Equity minimum will change depending on the size of the theatre, the number of audience and the type of contract, it is important for Equity Minimum to exist because you cannot get undercut when working, an employer cannot hire someone else who is willing to accept less money than you and it also means you can have a fair living wage doing your work.
Equity has so many wonderful things for an actor in order to feel safe, one of them being that you get injury insurance. They are always here to help, even when one may get injured during a rehearsal or even whilst heading to work. Equity is there with £150 weekly until you are fully healed and are well enough to come back to work. To tie in with injuries and accidents, once you sign up, members automatically have up to £10 million in PLI (Public Liability Insurance). Equity Student members are covered for up to £2 million in PLI. So why is this great for us? With this insurance, if anything is broken on set or if there is any accident on a person, you are covered with this money and will not be sued or need to pay with your own wallet. Rosie then joked, “I promise you, don’t try this, but even if you accidentally burned the theatre to the ground, even that probably wouldn’t even use up the ten million pounds of PLI insurance.” which of course was made a joke but even through that showed reassurance that Equity was always going to be there for anyone during an accident.
It was also wonderful to hear that Equity helps fund BAPAM (British Association of Performing Arts Medicine), so when you join as a member, you also have access to BAPAM which is an amazing charity made of experienced medical professionals, where their expertise is in the world of performing arts, and so they are experts in not only medicine but also, they intricately understand entertainment and toll it can take on the human body, the risk it can bring, and nature of what actors do. Rosie then added to summarise, Equity members can get free physiological and psychological assessments when there may be anything that you may be experiencing and may want to be seen for. Beyond that, it is not only the health and advice that you can get from BAPAM, Rosie explained how Equity had members where BAPAM had helped fund their physio if someone had an accident that was preventing them from working in the industry. They also had members where BAPAM helped them bump up on the waiting list at NHS, when that waiting list was preventing them from working. Another incredible story that Rosie shared with us how BAPAM had helped members where one required a complex operation that cost ten thousand pounds to actually receive the treatment. However, BAPAM was able to find a surgeon that was willing to donate a time for free so that the Equity member was able to receive the treatment that they needed but they were not out of pocket afterward.
To bring up the most important point, Equity does not tolerate any kind of bullying and harassment. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work and hostile behaviour should not be tolerated. Rosie explained that Equity is committed to helping those who have endured bullying, threats, attacks or any sexual harassment. She reassured our class that they are not here to pressure anyone and if someone feels like sharing their concerns and wish for Equity to be involved, they will immediately take part if the member feels comfortable enough sharing. It may be a simple talk to get some things off your chest but equally, if there are instances where a member does wish Equity to act on their behalf, they will of course let their member lead how they want everything to go. Rosie then gave an example, if a member wishes Equity to turn up to a meeting, send an email or make a phone call on the member’s behalf or even if it is an instance where a member genuinely wants to take an employer to court on their behalf and represent the member, Equity is ready to do that.
In summary, Equity is a great choice for any performer to join in order to feel protected and safe. Rosie has certainly helped us realise that we are not alone in this big industry and we cannot thank her enough for sharing all of this valuable information, that Equity is always going to be here, especially during such dark times for Musical Theatre.
Many Thanks to Rosie Archer for taking the time to come and speak to us and everyone at Associated Studios for organising this wonderful talk.