Equity is the only Trade Union to represent artists from across the entire spectrum of arts and entertainment. Formed in 1930 by a group of West End performers, Equity quickly spread to encompass the whole range of professional entertainment, Membership includes actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, variety and circus artists, television and radio presenters, walk-on and supporting artists, stunt performers and directors and theatre fight directors.
Although it is a Trade Union, Equity is not politically affiliated and so does not make payments to any political party. This puts Equity in the strong position of being able to lobby with impunity governments of all political colours. It is, however, affiliated to the Trades Unions Congress and Equity delegates attend the annual TUC conference as a means of bringing performers’ issues to a wider audience.
What equity does
The main function of Equity is to negotiate minimum terms and conditions of employment throughout the entire world of entertainment and to endeavour to ensure these take account of social and economic changes. We look to the future as well, negotiating agreements to embrace the new and emerging technologies which affect performers so satellite, digital television, new media and so on are all covered, as are the more traditional areas. Equity Agreements covers such things as auditioning, minimum rates or pay/fees (“Equity minimums”) health and safety, hours, breaks, holiday pay, grievance procedure and many other items which makes working under Equity terms the best protection an artist can have.
Equity works at national level by lobbying government and other bodies on issues of paramount importance to their membership eg. Agency Regulations, Public Entertainment Licensing, funding for British filmmaking, funding for Regional Theatre and other topics. In addition the union operates at an international level through the Federation of International Artists which Equity helped to establish, the International Committee for Artists’ Freedom and through agreements with their sister unions overseas.
In addition to these core activities, Equity strives to provide a wide range of services for its members and so they are eligible for a whole host of benefits which are continually being revised and developed. These include helplines, Job Information Service, insurance cover, member’s pension scheme and others.
How to get an equity card
To obtain full Equity membership and get an Equity card, applicants have to be able to provide proof (contracts, pay slips etc) of professional employment within the entertainment industry. Entry criteria depend on the area of the industry in which the applicant has worked. There is also a Student Membership Scheme for people on a full-time course of one year or longer at a higher level, which prepares people to work in the industry as a performer or creative practitioner such as a director, designer or stage manager. For full information on joining please visit www.equity.org.uk application forms are also available, or contact any Equity office for a joining pack: London 020 7670 0215, Glasgow: 0141 248 2473, Cardiff: 029 2039 7971, Manchester: 0161 832 3183, Sheffield: 01142 759 746, Warwick: 01926 408 638.