On this page you can find Paul’s detailed plans for every area of the union’s work. He wrote this manifesto with grassroots activists from every area of the industry to forge a shared agenda for Equity’s future. Find the tabs that interest you in the ‘Policies’ section below.
Paul as General Secretary—What does it look like?
Most of this document details the practical policy commitments Paul is making to build a strong, campaigning union. Paul’s vision is to have, under his leadership, a team of staff and members working together for a shared objective of social justice for our members. To do that members have to know they can trust and support the way their new General Secretary will work. Here you can see Paul’s commitments as to how he’ll do the job.
1.) A visit to two workplaces a fortnight. Whether a West End show, a TIE tour, a film set or pubs & clubs across the UK, Paul will be meeting members across the U.K face to face. He has the best visits record of any industrial or regional organiser- aiming for 100 a year. That practical connection won’t change. This will ensure that Equity’s organising, campaigning and negotiating strategies will be relevant and addressing the issues that members care deeply about.
2.) Speak at every branch in the first 15 months. Paul will be out there with the activists that are the union’s life blood. Having been the official with responsibility for the London general branches since 2016, he knows the frustrations of branches with lots of union processes as they are and he wants activists to be part of his vision for bigger, better funded branches.
3.) An industrial General Secretary. This doesn’t mean Paul will lead every negotiation, or always be in the room with the union’s exceptional industrial staff. But it does mean that he will build relationships with senior management at the BBC, independent production companies, and maintain his connections with the biggest commercial and subsidised theatre producers to help add pressure and power to our industrial work.
4.) A members-first General Secretary. Paul believes that the lay officers, branch officers, and committee chairs should be empowered further to speak on issues about the industry, with professional media training to enable them to speak confidently and authoritatively about their union, and their industry in the press and in public.
5.) A political General Secretary. Paul’s been campaigning, picketing and marching since he was a teenager and as General Secretary that won’t stop. He’ll be alongside members marching for our NHS, ending austerity, to get equal rights and for an internationalist UK which is open to everyone.
6.) A focus on all members. Our union’s membership is diverse – from some of the best known names on the planet to artists struggling to get by. We need to unite them by focussing not only on minimum pay, but secondary payments, the work/life balance, press intrusion, reforms to libel laws, and standing up when government makes the wrong decision – whether it’s on the arts, workers’ rights or from HMRC.
7.) A full-time General Secretary. Paul will stand down from his other positions as soon as practical, and be wholly dedicated to using the skills he’s acquired for the benefit of our union and its members.
The First six months
Throughout this document, Paul makes pledges as to what the first six months days would look like, and the practical things he’d do immediately on election. All the below should be completed by the 5th April 2021, and reported to that month’s Council. set actions for the next 100 days to progress them further, and commence work on other commitments.
A Central Arts Councils Funding Campaign across the UK (Theatre)
Pubs and Clubs Crisis Task Force (Variety)
TV & Film Grassroots Childcare Campaign (Recorded Media)
TV & Flim Member Engagement Strategy (Recorded Media)
An Audiobooks Agreement Strategy (inc meeting with the key engagers) (Audio & New Media)
A TV Commercials Strategy (inc meeting with the key engagers) (TV Commercials)
MU-Equity BPI Agreement Strategy (Singers)
Equity/Irish Equity-SIPTU Summit (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
National Committee Chairs Meeting on Devolution Campaign for the Arts (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
Local Councillor’s Alliance for Performers Launch (English Regions)
Review of Equity’s regional councillors (English Regions)
Industry Summit on Regional Casting Kitemark and transparent badging (English Regions)
Commision Young Members Councillor to review extra support for students & graduates (Students, Education, and Entering the Industry)
A Policy Directory (Democracy: The Rules, ARC & Branches)
Arts Workers Climate Summit (Politics & Campaigning)
A ‘Mental Health Commission’ (Politics & Campaigning)
Commission Disabled Members Councillor and the Deaf & Disabled Members Committee to look at reasonable adjustments to entry requirements for disabled members (Financial Stability)
Give branch secretaries access to the branch membership they need to organise and service local members (Variety & Democracy: The Rules, ARC, and Branches)
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the resilience of artists – but the fragility of our industry.
Ten years ago I was working as a trades union official in the steel industry – one of the first things you learn about a steelworks is that you can’t turn it off. Stopping furnaces breaks equipment, frustrating a single part of the steel making process would create a bill into the hundreds of millions – and render the industry shut.
The way successive governments have run arts and entertainment for over a decade has meant that this is now true of our industry too. It’s been treated like a factory production line. A lack of freelancer support means talented artists leaving the industry for other work – perhaps never to return. Weak funding models mean that if you can’t open a bar, a restaurant, put on that commercial transfer – even the best funded regional theatre would shut. With schools academised and local authorities stretched TIE, YPT, independent theatre has nowhere to go. In an economic downturn, how can an independent artist ‘match fund’ paltry central funding?
COVID-19 has created this horrendous storm. To wake up from it, we don’t just need help to get us through, but a paradigm shift in approach.
Equity must be at the forefront of this – making sure that it’s not just money for buildings and billionaires that’s seen as the answer, but for artists first and foremost.
1.) A Universal Basic Income (UBI) for Artists
We need the government to end uncertainty for theatre artists immediately. It’s the only way to help people pay their bills, stop their kids going hungry and to stop a DDan of talent frm our industry – a drain which will be disproportionately from the least well represented groups on our stages and screens.
Providing pay security is the only way to stop reckless industry re-opening putting artists and audiences at risk. Our members should not be made to choose between keeping those they interact with safe and paying the bills.
Furlough covers too few of our members. Self employed support covers too many inadequately. Variety artistes are battling closing venues for their sole sources of income even when times are more certain.
Our industry, key to this country’s economic success and social cohesion, needs to be a trial for a Universal Basic income for working people in the arts – through this crisis and beyond.
2.) A Full Industry Bailout
Theatre producers, subsidised and commercial need to be helped through this chaos. The government must cover the reasonable costs of mothballing – and re-opening both the commercial and subsidised sectors of our industry.
If the UK success story that is the arts and entertainment industry is to survive, the threadbare finances of many producers, drained by investors and government cuts must be held together.
The government must formally constitute task forces of unions, engagers and venues in each sector: variety, TV & Film and theatre to price up the cost of staying dark & stopping production – and then meet the expenses those task forces identify.
3.) A Safe Opening Subsidy
If theatres are to re-open without depending on full houses, crowded bars and ice cream sales, the government has to offer financial guarantee for when shows re-open. The government needs to underwrite the costs incurred of opening shows in the subsidised and commercial sectors until social distancing and mass gathering rules change.
The government must deal with an insurance industry placing unreasonable burdens and inadequate protections for TV & Film production. If the insurers won’t, the government needs to underwrite those costs.
The government must fund the cost of ensuring social distancing and other best practices in every workplace our members enter.
The government must contribute to the cost of reduced weeks or elongated production time so our members’ income doesn’t suffer.
No safe opening subsidy will mean the collapse of the industry, or worse, a second spike caused by an economic desperation to re-open.
4.) Regionalise and Democratise Our Industry
The COVID crisis shows the value of our industry in an emergency – but this emergency could spell its end after a decade of austerity. Only with a properly funded, artist led arts and entertainment industry can we make sure we’re flourishing in times good and bad.
The arts councils across the UK should be reconstituted with panels of artists leading where an increased public subsidy goes, in consultation with their communities.
The BBC should be co-operatised and its governance structures elected by the workforce who drive it, the workforce who aspires to work there, and the licence fee payers who watch it.
5.) End the Mixed Model
Our theatres shouldn’t have to open bars, restaurants or commercial tours to survive. Independent artists shouldn’t be having to find philanthropy to match fund as a condition of public subsidy. The BBC shouldn’t be forced to commercialise to pay its way.
The mixed model in this crisis is what’s pushing us to the brink. Funding models which rely on the market result in short term planing and crush innovative thinking – as well as the crisis we now find ourselves in.
We need to meet and exceed the European average for direct public subsidy for live performance – and make funding genuinely accessible to variety acts and independent artists.
A subsidy to kick-start the commercial sector should end the mixed model – with that money then redirected to fund art and entertainment that doesn’t need private backing to thrive.
Paul’s trades unionism is rooted in the fight for real equality – and not just simple diversity. That means closing pay gaps, ensuring opportunities when starting out, incidental casting, accessible workplaces, and making sure the union practises what it preaches.
Art itself suffers when the pool of working artists is drawn from a limited spring of talent – and when it comes to performers and creative team, there’s a talented, trained diverse workforce ready for work today. They shouldn’t have to wait any longer.
The whole union, every member, must be involved and included in this fight for equality – because every member stands to benefit from a more equal working world.
1.) Cross-Industry Monitoring of both pay and employment would be Paul’s top priority.
The Arts Councils and broadcasters have shown themselves incapable of monitoring equalities data in a way that makes sense for our members. We know the situation is at breaking point, because we all see where producers are failing. What we’re less clear on are pay gaps, exposure, and incidental casting.
Paul would put intersectional equalities monitoring of not just employment, but actor weeks and rates of pay in every pay negotiation, as a top priority. He’s already won it at the National Theatre, and achieved a working party in subsidised theatre – but there’s a long way to go. Paul wouldn’t just focus on the BBC or subsidised work either – under-representation is a failing in all sectors, so he’ll be no less ambitious with commercial producers in all areas of theatre, TV and film.
2.) Full Equalities Review of Union Activism because Equity can’t continue to push for a better working world if we’re not fit for purpose. This means a review to make our communications as accessible as possible, an audit of the equalities makeup of our deps and committees and a detailed look at how we get better participation from the committees in the industrial process.
The Equalities Committees should not just be the go-to point on equalities issues. They should be the check and balance to make sure the voices of under-represented artists are heard in all our industrial objectives. Paul will work with the committees to make that happen.
3.) Pride & LGBTQ+ Cultural Spaces matter deeply to Paul. He would be the first openly LGBTQ+ General Secretary of any union, and would want to put us at the forefront of making sure pride is a protest well as a celebration. Paul would use his status at the TUC to fight for full support for a TUC-run London Pride, and attend marches across the country in June & July.
As a councillor, Paul has worked with the LGBT+ Committee to reform planning policy in the London Borough of Southwark to defend and expand LGBTQ+ venues for the whole community. Paul wants to push that work out nationwide to tackle the crisis in losing gay spaces for artists and audiences.
4.) Childcare in the performing arts needs to change. Paul has been the union’s link with Parents in the Performing Arts (PiPA) since 2017, taking over from Christine Payne, as well as serving as the governor of a primary school & nursery for 8 years. What’s clear is that performing artists need subsidy to get childcare to work. Paul will ensure every industrial claim in every area of work introduces a ‘childcare levy’ on producers so we can build a pot of funds to subsidise emergency care for members, delivered through an easy, accessible and trusted platform.
5.) Women’s Employment is a topic we shouldn’t have to be talking about any more. We need 50/50 women’s employment from every producer over every 12 month – or 12 show – period. If that condition can’t be met, then producers should compensate the childcare levy fund (or other fund which solely or disproportionately improves the chances of women’s employment in the arts), with the wages those women have lost. Women are over 50% of our membership, and their union has to be ambitious and uncompromising in getting the employment opportunities they’ve long deserved. This item should be part of every industrial claim we make not only for performers, but stage management and ‘creative team’ roles too.
6.) The Exchange Agreements are incredible tools to create cultural exchange between the UK, United States and Australia – the language of art is universal, and artists should be able to work without borders. But the agreements must operate in a way which doesn’t negate the rights of artists based in the UK to get opportunities here. Paul knows the agreements intimately, and would work with Equity in the US and Australia to introduce monitoring of the pool to make sure BAME artists from the UK aren’t losing out.
7.) Class is an issue Paul cares about deeply; he’s been the lead official forming the union’s class network since its launch in early 2019. We’ve already won equal status for class in our theatre agreements alongside other characteristics, and that should be the case in every collective agreement we have. We should oppose drama school fees of any level, and campaign for training institutions to be fully integrated into the state education system – as well as a National Education System which allows transition into our industry for those with talent and experience who started working lives elsewhere.
Paul’s track record in theatre is clear – it’s the sector he knows best. He’s been the lead negotiator forcing through the lion’s share of rises of nearly 64% in subsidised theatre over 16 years, and 74% in commercial theatre. He’s democratised the process, giving members surveys on claims before submission, putting together more representative working parties, and balloting members on the outcomes.
But there’s so much more to be done, and as GS Paul would push the things that matter most to members – making terms and conditions fit for the twenty-first century.
More than any other area of work, theatre has suffered from nearly a decade of self-defeating austerity. We need better public investment but not just for shiny buildings and more administration. Across the UK we need more jobs, on better wages with fairer terms.
1.) The five day rehearsal week is an area Paul is passionate about, and he has put on the agenda over the last two years. As General Secretary, in every area of work, Paul would push a five day working week to be the basis of all our agreements – with premium payments were that is breached.
2.) Holiday pay is supposed to ensure that when working people are at rest, they’re still being paid. For our members, holiday pay is woefully inadequate to cover the long periods without work. This has to change. We need a major new push to raise levels of holiday for our members to give them higher levels of stable compensation when they’re out of work, and better paid rest when they’re in it.
3.) Stage Management must share proportionately where there are new exploitations of theatre. Paul has already achieved inclusion of stage management in the NT Live royalty pool, but this has to go further. As we modernise our recorded media agreements to take account of this new exploitation of work, stage management should proportionately share, as artists, in ongoing payments, and have a clear pay structure on our PACT agreement for broadcasts.
4.) Pay progression for designers & directors is long overdue, and with the new enthusiasm brought by Equity’s renewed relationship with the professional associations for the creative team (see also: Member Benefits), it can now be made a reality. Paul will work with our members and the professional associations to achieve not just improved minimum rates of pay, but Union mandated average rates too, as we do with performers in subsidised theatre. Applying system to every sector would ensure pay rises with projects, careers and the ability of producers to pay.
5.) Arts Council Funding across the UK is under threat from a legacy of a decade or more of austerity. Equity’s ‘Performance for All’ policy shows that not only does funding need to increase to 0.5% of GDP, but that we need to end match-funding of work, and put professionals in control of how funding is allocated and assessed. In the first six months, Paul would start a campaign at the TUC, national government, local authorities and across our diverse membership to get concrete commitments as to how we make this a reality.
6.) Sector specific guidance on the National Living Wage has been an objective of Equity since the introduction of its predecessor, the National Minimum Wage in 1998 – but it’s never been enough of a political priority. Paul will campaign to write and achieve that guidance, and to have it approved by not only HMRC, but trusted organisations like SOLT/UKTheatre, the ITC, the Arts Councils, and the TUC. Paul has been part of campaigns to remove age-based National Living/Minimum wages for over a decade, and would keep this as a top campaigning priority.
7.) A Digs Revolution is what’s needed for touring work, and regional production to be a reality for professional artists in the 21st century. Paul would lead a campaign to get the Arts Councils to commit capital to building a UK-wide network of affordable self-catering apartments across the country, owned and run by theatres as a key part of their sustainability.
Variety is an area which Paul could not be more passionate about. As a working class art form, representing the second largest single group of members, it deserves more resource, and a higher profile within our union.
Paul’s vision is for reinvigorated variety branches – not merged into general branches – which stand at the heart of the modern world of variety.
Paul believes the union should be at the forefront of helping members secure more, new and better work across the variety sector.
Paul would create new staff positions to look after variety, run independently from the Live Performance Department. They should be able to work alongside colleagues in recorded media so we can tackle no and low pay for variety artists working in television too.
1.) A New Variety Section, separate from the Live Performance Department, with an additional organiser, and a nationwide variety strategy developed and delivered in partnership with Variety activists.
2.) Member Engagement & Empowerment involving surveys, events and engagement for variety members who have worked on our recorded media collective agreements. Variety shows are at the heart of modern British TV, but for too long we’ve not tackled the issue of no and low pay and lack of respect in the format. Paul would put it at the top of the agenda. This means looking at the issues that face artists in reality TV, from mental health to low pay and exploitation, from Love Island to XFactor and Strictly.
3.) Additional Dedicated Staff Support and Financial Resource for a recruitment campaign in every variety branch. Each year, 6 variety branches across the UK would get additional support to target and develop membership & activism in a particular area of variety work that matters to them. Over 3 years every branch would have the chance to take this on. A staff member would be tasked to help them, and additional funds given to support. That means groups like comedians, children’s entertainers and burlesque artists can have local networks and events to link them to the union’s community.
4.) A Variety Conference to be held every other year, aiming to be open, dynamic and empower new activists. It would be a forum for debate, to showcase successful campaigns and raise variety’s profile. Paul would support the conference having motion-passing powers, but even if not, it’s right that the whole variety community have a chance to come together to debate, campaign, and celebrate their talent.
5.) A New Branch Funding Formula consisting of £1 per member per year, with a minimum of £100 per branch, capped at £500, to get campaigning & recruiting work underway.
6.) Data Protection is important but shouldn’t stop branches organising and providing support for members. Paul would change our data protection policy in the first 100 days to make sure all branch secretaries had access to the data they need to help and support members.
7.) Pubs and Clubs. In the first six months, Paul would convene a crisis task force involving industry bodies like the CIU, CAMRA, local authorities and engagers to map the losses of variety places of work across the country, and begin an online database of areas at risk, and targeted campaigning to fix those we need. From burlesque clubs, LGBTQ+ venues to working men’s clubs and rural pubs, the union should give more profile to this issue.
8.) Review the Job Information Service to make sure it can be the go-to directory for potential engagers seeking variety artists of all forms. The industry should aspire to have a service to become the ‘Spotlight’ for variety where engagers know they’re getting quality and members know they can rely on decent terms – Equity is the place to do just that.
Film + TV
Along with having specific ideas for TV and Film, Paul has a coherent vision for the recorded media sector, where campaigns and claims need to have joined-up thinking between film and TV. This includes getting the infrastructure right, and a new plan for membership engagement.
Our recorded media department are world leaders; the first ever agreement for Netflix and setting the global standard for SVOD secondary payments are just two of the ways they’ve put Equity at the forefront of modern terms and conditions. Building on these successes with radical, member-led campaigns for a new structure of ownership and modern terms and conditions is the next step to keeping ahead of the game.
1.) A ten year strategic plan, setting out our utopian vision for where members need our terms to be, and identifying the key industrial pressure points to make that happen. Meaningful consideration and ambition for a version of the residuals system should be at the heart of that vision, which would be formed by the Screen & New Media Committee in consultation with a working party of key members and activists working in the sector.
2.) Tiers on the PACT Agreements are the only way to reflect the modern reality of independent producers as wealthy and powerful companies – no longer underdogs against bigger funded broadcasters. As we have in theatre, the daily rates paid by PACT producers shouldn’t be a single level, but instead increase on the ability of the producer to pay. With fewer members benefitting from secondary payments on our agreements, the daily rate of pay deserves immediate and radical attention.
3.) A clear campaign to nationalise TV and film studios, and renew the purpose of the licence fee, building on our ‘Performance for All’ policy. Either through a democratised BBC , or a new arms-length body, this is the way to prioritise production, radically improve facilities and secure health and safety.
4.) A new vision for the structure of the BBC where the voice of our members who work there are at its heart. We should immediately lobby for membership of the Joint Industrial Committee, alongside BECTU and the NUJ who already have seats there. The next step is bold union policy on co-operatising the BBC, governed by an independent board, elected 50/50 by licence fee payers and the workers who contribute to its success.
5.) Renewing the purpose, form and level of the licence fee should be a massive pro-active union campaign which attracts significant support. Paul believes that the licence fee should be higher, but shouldn’t just fund the BBC, and instead pay for all UK households to have access to all major subscription services. This radical idea of central bulk-purchasing of subscriptions to Netflix, Sky and others would ensure quality provision for everyone in the UK, regardless of income – and should come with the condition of renewed union agreements for all those who work on their shows. #NetflixForTheNation would be an incredible way to get Equity’s message front and centre of national new
6.) A Code of Conduct for Auditions, attached to all our collective agreements is long overdue. After Paul’s success in achieving the ‘yes/no’ campaign objectives in the Theatre Code, improvements to notices, expenses and so on, he would bring his experience to achieve these basic dignities across our recorded media agreements.
7.) The five day working week and improved holiday pay are crucial in film and TV. With long hours, short notice and gruelling schedules, the right to rest,and to be compensated when it doesn’t happen is a major concern. Payments should rise to penalise producers who don’t schedule in an artist-focussed way. Ensuring that all entitlements on recorded media agreements are based on a five day week, with extra compensation for Saturday work, and radically improved holiday should be immediate priorities second only to tiers for daily rates.
8.) Low pay no pay needs more of a focus in film. The radical change brought about since Paul took it on in theatre in 2011 needs to happen on films of every budget, with every type of producer, across the UK. Paul will campaign for sector-specific guidance, and a well-resourced campaign to get our new Professionally Made Professionally Paid film agreement out there and working for members.
9.) Linking film tax credit to union agreements should be a union priority. Paul has led the initiative from the Stage Committee 2019 ARC motion that, like direct public subsidy, indirect subsidy should require the payment of industry standard i.e. union – terms and conditions, and meaningful equalities monitoring. Film tax credit is no different.
10.) Childcare hasn’t had the focus in recorded media as it has in theatre. Paul has worked with PIPA to get Equity’s support for a trial of an emergency childcare pilot which works well for members wherever they work. But this is a problem for the engagers, it’s not for the workers to fix. Paul would campaign to introduce a childcare subsidy levy on recorded media producers to improve access to, and subsidise the cost of, childcare for recorded media workers. In his first six months he would organise a summit on how to form, support and co-ordinate grassroots campaigns like PIPA in the recorded media sector – working with FIA colleagues to make it a global issue.
11.) Member engagement has been the cornerstone of high rates of membership in live performance. In the first six months, Paul would bring to Council a paper on how to create regularly consulted networks on our agreements, organise the bargaining timetable to allow indicative surveys and ballots of members on the deals that we do, and have a new system of deps which works for the recorded media.
Audio + New Media
Audio is a booming area of work, and provides the potential to transform our members’ incomes. With new modes of consumption, a growing market, and British trained artists in demand, the union has to seize the moment before it’s lost.
Only if this vital area has the resources to defend our unique radio drama scene, and the ambition to get union recognition in audiobooks, video games and other new areas.
1.) An Audio & New Media Organiser is the only way to give the Committee and the sector they deserve. Within Paul’s commitment to keep staffing costs neutral in his first term (see ‘Policies 18: Financial Stability 7’), we should prioritise the creation of this post. The Chair of the Committee and the councillor should be involved in their appointment, to make sure we engage a talented trade unionist who can get to grips with the sector.
2.) A high profile campaign on radio drama to fend off the serious threats posed by austerity to this vital area. Without radio drama at the level and quality we see now, British based and trained artists can’t remain world leaders in audio. The campaign would be led by our Audio Committee, and bring together audience groups alongside the union to raise the need for improved wages, more stable terms and better promotion.
3.) An Audiobooks Agreement has to be a union-wide industrial priority, second only to a new TV Commercials Agreement. In the first six months, Paul would aim to meet with the senior management at the biggest audiobook producers to set out our vision, and try to set a mutually beneficial course to achieving a union minimum terms agreement for their products.
4.) Campaign for Freelancer Protection; Paul has succeeded in getting the Labour Party to commit in their manifesto to clearly ruling out the use of cartel legislation to stop collective bargaining for genuine freelancers, but this has to go further. We should be lobbying all political parties to show the vulnerability of audio artists and our other freelance working people and find a solution to support Equity bargaining and setting rates to defend their terms.
5.) A UK/US Joint Conference on Video Game Work is urgently needed to co-ordinate our approach toward getting good terms in this growing and successful area. Led by activists from both sides of the Pond, the conference should agree priorities, targets, and strategies with unions and key partners as we fight to get recognition in the sector.
6.) An ADR Network would bring together the wealth of experience among our membership about how this growing cross-sector area of work can be better integrated, represented and recruited into our union membership. We should use the network to advance closer partnership with our FIA sister-unions to learn from their successes.
TV Commercials is a sector where the union has fought hard in recent years – establishing a framework agreement with the IPA to start the path toward a new, modern collective agreement.
Paul believes, however, that there needs to be a renewed vigour to take on this area of the industry. For many years, decent payments for TV commercials were the bedrock of performers’ income, but with the loss of our agreement, the rise of multi-channel television, and the evolution of the advertising industry, this is no longer the case.
If we want to create a truly sustainable career structure for freelance performers, decent payments for commercials has to be the strategic priority.
As GS, Paul would co-ordinate a new, modern, high profile campaign by members targeting producers and politicians to get the settlement that is so long overdue.
1.) Immediately convene a TV Commercials Working Party from the Screen Committee and regularly working members in the sector to survey our membership, lead the negotiations alongside dedicated union staff, and formulate a bold vision for the future of work in the sector
2.) Convene a meeting with the IPA in the first six months to agree a timetable for looking at the Framework Agreement to expand its scope, increase wages & create a code of conduct for auditions. To secure this, we need a joined up campaign involving our APPG, government, engagers, agents, fellow unions and industry bodies to restore a quality TV Commercials Agreement as the union’s foremost industrial priority
3.) Work with FIA to establish an international working group, looking at the international challenges affecting this highly globalised area of work. The effective inter-union work currently being done globally on Netflix and with Irish Equity on a host of areas shows how we can try to create international standards, identify rogue engagers and better protect members when working outside of the UK.
4.) Lobby the Labour Party to agree that TV Commercials will be a priority area for enforced sectoral bargaining. The Labour Party’s 2019 manifesto commits to expanding sectoral bargaining across the economy: as a union which has a track record of success in getting industry standard agreements, we deserve to be first in the queue to get support in this under-unionised area.
Dance is an area of work Paul has particularly strong experience of, having looked after Equity’s Dance Committee since its inception, and been the organiser responsible for working alongside some of Equity’s most dynamic activists to establish a freelance dance network.
Dance is an area, however, that needs more resource, and a new approach to improve the terms of a versatile workforce who work across different media. Our recent successes in engaging new activists from the commercial dance world has shown the limitations of having the sector support embedded in the Live Performance Department.
1.) A full time organiser to work across dance, whether live or in recorded media. This individual would also take responsibility for singers, but this would finally give dedicated resource to this vital area, their appointment should be timed to be cost-neutral on staffing.
2.) A working party to engage commercial dancers in the negotiations which affect them on our TV Agreements, putting the new organiser and activists at the heart of the big debates in TV.
3.) A full review of dancer insurances led by the members who need them, whether freelance, company or commercial dancers. It’s vital that we’re offering dancers – members who are most at risk at any time of career-ending injury – the insurances that they actually need to protect them at a low additional cost.
4.) A levy in all collective agreements affecting dancers to pay toward career transition. For too long we’ve neglected regular funding for this work coming from the producers who depend on a freelance workforce. All our industrial claims should ask for 1% of dancers’ wages to go toward the general Dancers Career Development fund.
5.) A five day working week, improved holiday and family friendly terms shouldn’t just be Equity’s ambition for actors & stage management, but dancers too. We need new agreements that give a modern work/life balance, increased holiday and a structure for childcare provision subsidised by engagers.
Singers have long suffered within Equity from a fragmentation of the support they receive. The great work the union does for variety artistes, backing singers and opera artists is disjointed and lacks central staff co-ordination and support. Some areas which are vital to sustain a stable career- like church and choral singing – lack any co-ordinated support.
We need to work closely with our colleagues at the Musicians’ Union, and in allied unions across the world to better support them, and achieve a consistent offer for singers.
1.) A full-time organiser to work across media to deal with the issues facing singers, wherever they work. This individual would also take responsibility for dancers, but this would finally give dedicated resource to this vital area. Their appointment should be timed to be cost-neutral on staffing.
2.) A choral singers network would be formed from the Singers’ Committee to map members working in this area, and find where long-neglected collective agreements exist. We should aim to have proper collective agreements across places of worship and establish modern terms and conditions as minimum standards in these workplaces.
3.) Taking on the BPI Agreements by meeting with the MU in the first six months to establish a joint claim moving forward, and proper inter-union co-operation to make use of our shared strength and mutually shared goals.
4.) A Singers’ Passport should be proposed at FIA level. Like the Dance Passport, this would give this highly mobile workforce, often working across Europe, access to union support and insurances in countries outside the UK, and help insulate them from the uncertainties of Brexit.
5.) An Opera Chorus for Scotland should be a major national campaign. It’s not right that a nation with an incredible operatic tradition doesn’t have a national company with a permanent chorus. Equity should be at the fore, campaigning to fix that – and right the wrongs of the vicious anti-union campaigns of 2004 which disbanded the permanent chorus.
Scotland, Wales + Northern Ireland
The distinct importance of the constituent nations of the UK is in the forefront of Paul’s vision. From an Irish family, he understands the importance of respecting and enhancing the voices of the constituent nations. Equity cannot be seen as an Anglo-centric voice when our industry is such a vital part of maintaining & building the identities of all the UK’s nations.
Improving Equity’s presence, our lobbying power and the infrastructure available for home-grown talent in the nations is at the heart of this vision.
1.) A political event every year in the assembly/parliaments with high profile members and activists, as we already do in Westminster, is essential to get our voice heard, and show our commitment to extended, strong devolution in the nations.
2.) Good relations with Irish Equity-SIPTU has been a great success of recent years. In Paul’s first six months he’d organise a conference with the Irish Union to map out a plan of solidarity and support with their work – in particular maintaining standards in recorded media agreements, but to look at how we could lend resource and expertise to their work in unionising the theatre sector.
3.) On the ground campaigning for a soft border on the island of Ireland is absolutely paramount. Equity has to be visible for all communities in Northern Ireland, the universal language of the performing arts is a powerful tool to show the desire for reconciliation and unity, and we must play our part in that. With family affected by Ireland’s partition and troubles, this is of deep personal importance to Paul.
4.) Owning our national offices has to be priority. We should seek to procure an office in Wales as soon as practical, and have a vision to own a Northern Irish office within the next five years as a base. These buildings should have modern facilities for members and staff, be well located in creative neighbourhoods and also have space to be hired out as a revenue source for the union.
5.) Holding Westminster accountable for more devolution to the nations, and what that means to the arts should be a much clearer, and often expressed policy position. The union’s position, both in general, and with respect to each nation, would be reviewed with policy recommendations from the Chairs of all the national committees in a meeting in the first six months.
6.) A political ‘cast in the nations’ campaign, to complement the excellent industrial work that’s already underway, our efforts need a political voice to lobby policy makers as to the importance of quality, sustainable jobs for Equity members in the nations.
7.) A full review as to how to support minority languages, and both live and recorded work which uses them. We should engage fully with campaigns to promote and extend minority languages and have a clear policy position to show solidarity with them. Alongside supporting the creation of quality work in minority languages, we should mount a full review of union resources available in Cymraeg, Gaeilge and Gàidhlig with a view to both improving access to the union, but also supporting their growth.
The English Regions
Coming from Birmingham, Paul knows how critical it is for the success of our industry to have strong, vibrant art outside of London. Due to the last decade of austerity, the cultural and artistic life of the English Regions is under threat; combined with the East/West divide in recorded media production, Equity must be the loudest voice to stop this culture crisis.
In other sections you can find details of Paul’s plan for campaigns on a digs revolution, funding pledges, strengthening branches and a local government network to fight this worrying trend. This section looks at the specific regional commitments Paul would make as your General Secretary.
1.) Owning regional offices as a matter of priority. We should aim to buy an office for the union, with flexible rentable space which we can earn income from in the Northern Quarter of Manchester as soon as is practical. In the longer term, paid for by earned rental income, Equity should restore a Midlands base in the medium term, again with space for the union to rent out.
2.) A high profile campaign to achieve regional TV & film production and physical infrastructure (like studios) in Birmingham, East Anglia and Yorkshire. The East/West divide in recorded media must be national news – with enormous swathes of our country missing out on casting opportunities and the economic boost which these would provide. These studios should be state owned and run, either via the BBC or a new arms-length body, in line with the ‘Performance for All’ policy.
3.) Regional theatre funding is at a crisis level. In the first six months, Paul would launch a campaign to get local authorities to lobby for a funded, producing theatre in every major town and city in the UK. As a local councillor and experienced politician, Paul understands how to form campaigns that win on arts issues. A ‘Performers Alliance’ of local councillors should be established, which can support members to not only win local campaigns, but stand for local office. Artists have so much to offer in elected politics, representing any party or none, and if Equity can train and support them through political schools, we will massively strengthen our hand as a political force.
4.) Reviewing the way regions are represented on Equity Council is essential to ensure that members get the support they need and campaigns the profile they deserve. It is clear that we need at least one new councillor for the North. In his first six months, Paul would consult on what the boundaries for new councillor areas would be, and recommending to Council splitting the current Northern area into at least two smaller areas in a way which is cost-efficient.
5.) National institutions should recruit across the nation – the RSC, the National, and other institutions based in London with a national public duty should be compelled by our collective agreements to hold open castings away from the capital. Local casting for local work is important, but our members deserve access to the best funded institutions which have national and global profile.
6.) Ensuring accurate badging of regional product, and a local casting kitemark would raise the profile of local casting with audiences and increase pressure on producers and broadcasters to cast local talent. If a production is set in Yorkshire, it should be a BBC Yorkshire production, not from another English region. Audiences should know that their actors live, were educated in or grew up in their region, and a profile kite-mark would help create new pressure to do so. In the first six months Paul would call together industry partners like Spotlight, The Stage and campaign groups to plan a casting kitemark, and call on the broadcasters to end misleading badging.
Students, Education + Entry to the Industry
Entry to the industry is difficult and Equity should never be a barrier. We should never give in to the line that there are ‘too many’ artists trying to work at any one time – the problem is with the underfunding of our industry and lack of jobs, not an over-supply of talent.
Along with opposing fees, supporting people of all ages into professional training, and keeping creative subjects on the school curriculum (mentioned in previous sections), Paul would be a General Secretary making a strong commitment to those starting out
1.) Support for those entering the industry has to be reviewed and improved. In the first six months, Paul would commission the Young Members’ Councillor to review how our membership subscription structure can support not only graduates starting out, but working class artists who have entered the industry with no formal training too.
2.) Supporting membership of professional associations should be a core objective of the union, in showing solidarity with support for organisations offering other services to members, we better support them in having a sustainable career. Paul would look at the costs of partnering with professional associations like the Association of Lighting Designers, Society of British Theatre Designers, Stage Management Association, Stage Directors UK and others to offer a discount on their membership for Equity members entering the industry for a time-limited period. Paul would never support ‘joint membership’, but the time to review how we support these associations grow among emerging artists is now.
3.) Student Deputies deserve a formal place in the union’s structure. Paul would explore expanding the Young Members’ Committee to 12 places, with the extra 3 places reserved for student deputies, elected by student deputies. The Committee should also have an additional ARC motion, and conference representative to just focus on student issues and give a proper voice to student deputies.
4.) An Annual Student Deps event, planned by the Young Members’ Committee, and attended by Paul and officers of the union would both bring student members together and get them involved in campaigns, priorities and action.
5.) A Joint Consultative Committee between students and drama schools would be the best way to share best practice on student experience and crack down on unacceptable practices like sexual harassment and stereotyping. It would be an excellent training ground for students as negotiators, campaigners and organisers on the issues that matter to them. Paul would work with the Federation of Drama Schools to make this happen, and get Equity’s relationship with training bodies into the hands of the student members who know it best.
Press + Communication
Equity is a union for communicators, and so we need to represent them with modern, effective communications. From our award-winning journal, to our increasing presence in the press, we already punch above our weight. Paul started his working life in communications, as a press secretary and political speech writer. He has the skills to target messages, and open up the union’s communication process so skilled professionals can be member led.
Paul’s objective for Equity is to be the go-to source of the views of performers and creative workers on the issues facing our industry. To do this we need a media strategy which meaningfully involves our senior activists and elected members, which doesn’t just respond to, but actively creates, stories and content.
As the union with the longest track record of success in the gig economy, we should also be the go-to point for stories and comment on the changing world of work, and the tactics to use – and changes we need – to support precarious workers in the gig economy.
Equity should be ever-present in the news; whether print, online or broadcast. With Paul’s experience of working in professional political communications, he’s the right candidate to strategically lead this effort and enhance our media profile.
1.) Engage a professional journalist on a retainer who has their ‘ear to the ground’ when it comes to the stories of the moment. This journalist should take responsibility for pushing our media profile to the outside world, and getting activists onto TV, into print, and building relationships with journalists in the arts.
2.) A high profile union blog with twice weekly updated content would help Equity take the lead in the news, rather than merely reacting to it. Half the content should be prepared by our journalist on the staff – a respected name whose voice adds to our weight. The other half should be written by members, with professional support, to give the inside stories on working in the industry.
3.) Activist led press communications including media training for key activists. We should have a directory of key members, trained and ready to speak on any issue which might come up and need media comment.
4.) An accessibility review of all union communications led by the Deaf & Disabled Members Committee is a priority with the first six months of Paul’s election. Our communications and content should be easy to access and understand for all of our members, at first glance.
5.) Building better networks with profile and national press through personal contacts, but also a pro-active annual communications timetable, updated monthly. Equity must be less reactive and more determined to create the stories and press interest we need to win a better working world.
6.) A Council Communications Sub-Committee should be formed, to meet quarterly to review the effectiveness of recent communications strategies, analyse where we’ve had successes, and make ongoing recommendations for how we keep abreast of a modern media and a disparate, but connected, membership.
Democracy: The Rules, ARC + Branches
One of Christine’s greatest legacies is a much more highly functioning union democracy. We have new industrial committees and a whole new generation of Equity activists powering our union.
However, there is much still to be done, and almost ten years on from the last major reforms, we need a committee structure that continues to bring in new activists – and is truly independent to scrutinise staff work.
Beyond that, we need more democratic involvement in our member services. It’s not right that areas like our distribution service, insurance provision and other benefits don’t have elected democratic oversight from our members.
Paul is the secretary to the Stage Management Committee, one of the two committees who used the 2019 ARC to raise serious questions about how the union could better organise our annual conference. Paul believes this review needs to be broad ranging, making radical changes to bring Equity’s democracy closer to the membership – as well as keeping the comradery and focus our current ARC provides.
1.) Create a new ‘Democratic Engagement Section’, independent of any department, staffed by officials to run the conference and with specific skills and background in scrutiny. This would be a central resource for branches, committees and lay members.
2.) A more independent committee system; is required to give members and activists confidence in the work they do, and to ensure that they can be the critical friends to staff which make for the best agreements. Paul would work towards single staff member (in line with Policies 18: Financial Stability 7) professionally trained in scrutiny support work from a local or national government background. This review would also involve a serious look at the powers , functions and responsibilities of committees to ensure that they have the strength and focus that they need to keep our agreements relevant and our whole Equity’s work to account.
3.) A new branch funding formula; branches shouldn’t have to fight for funds, and those funds should be sufficient to a minimum floor of £100 a year, and £1 a member thereafter, subject to a £500 cap. It’s simple: branches should have regular income, and be free to spend it as they choose – subject to an improved central support and review mechanism led by members, not staff.
4.) A new branch peer support mechanism would help struggling branches by giving a two year timetable of additional resource from staff and in cash as well as a buddying system with stronger branches across the UK. Targets would be set and reviewed by members to help, which is designed to help branches grow, or re-form if members chose.
5.) Amend our GDPR policy so all branch secretaries have access to their membership lists, and official Equity e-mail addresses to protect members’ data. Paul would do this as a priority – in the first six months of becoming GS.
6.) We need to establish and build a conference fringe. Equity members deserve campaigns and training at their conference. They deserve to hear the most innovative and exciting ideas about our industry and our movement from organisations – and to be introduced to the latest big ideas in trades unionism and the performing arts too. A fringe can be a platform to help campaigns we sponsor and support to get their message out more widely too – like Act4Change and PIPA.
7.) A Policy Directory is a long overdue tool to help members and staff know what their union stands for. It should be searchable, include all policies from 2020 onwards, and as many policy positions as practical from before that date. Paul will make sure this work is started, and aim for its completion, within his first six months.
Politics + Campaigning
The heart of our campaigning should be about improving terms and conditions in the workplace and access to work. This whole manifesto is full of campaigns Paul would run, and there’s a list summarised at the end of this section.
Beyond that, Equity is a major political player. Our APPG is one of the most respected, and has serious clout when it comes to getting our members’ voices heard on issues that affect them – like freezing cuts to the arts or expanding tax credits. However, we need to do more to be present and respected by all the major parties.
1.) A presence at every major party conference hopefully alongside our fellow FEU members is an absolute necessity to be taken seriously as a lobbying force. Whether it be the Labour, Tory, Lib Dem or nationalist parties, Paul will ensure a presence of both staff and members to meet and lobby decision makers and get our voice heard in every manifesto at every level.
2.) Establish a directory of members who are politically active in parties so we can utilise them to assist our union through model motions and their personal connections with candidates and policy makers.
3.) Affiliation to the Labour Party must always be ruled out. Paul is Labour Party councillor but believes passionately that affiliation damages unions and damages the Party. We must always be able to speak truth to power, no matter which Party that involves.
4.) Establishing an APPG style group for local government with a champion in as many local authorities as possible would be an excellent way to lobby more effectively against local government cuts, involve them in planning decisions about better workplaces, enforce health and safety in venues and get guarantees about terms and conditions.
5.) Establish annual political schools for members who want to improve the voice of those working in the arts. Members should be supported and trained by the union, and provided with quality political connections if they want to take their activism into professional politics. Paul’s career has spanned working for parties and standing for office, and he is passionate about addressing the lack of artists elected to all levels of office.
6.) An annual political lecture would be a central, focussing event for connecting our political message to the political world outside our industry, and raising the voice of artists. The ‘Christine Payne’ lecture would be a great way of honouring a leading campaigner and woman trades unionist with a suitably high profile speaker each year.
7.) Europe has proven a divisive and difficult issue. Paul supported councillors in writing a motion which moved the union’s position, within the rules, to supporting a general election or public vote. However members voted, they should feel welcome in our union, and know that the advice we give about the rights of our members is impartial, and an aid about one area of a complex debate. In any final Brexit settlement, and in the debates in the years to come, Paul will fight for freedom of movement, increased arts funding, a soft border on the island of Ireland and the rights of EU citizens in the UK. He’ll also be a strong ally to FIA comrades fighting for a social Europe that works for artists, as he has done for almost 9 years on the European Commission’s Social Dialogue Committee. He would launch a quarterly update for Equity EU citizen members in the UK, and other interested members to keep them connected and up to date with debates as they develop.
8.) The Environment has to be of concern to our members as a matter of urgency. The union internally should look at our carbon footprint, and seriously review foreign travel by aeroplane – introducing tests as to when it’s necessary. Where it is necessary, the union should be involved in neutralising its carbon output. We should ensure our assets are divested from unnecessary carbon creation, building on Paul’s experience as a trustee of a local authority pension scheme of over £1.5 billion – the first to go low carbon. In his first six months, Paul will call an ‘Arts Workers Climate Summit’ to make sure our industry is at the heart of all major parties’ green strategies, and identifying lobbying groups for a greener industry to put pressure on wealthy carbon creators in the industry to reduce their impact.
9.) A ‘Mental Health Commission’ for the industry is long overdue. In the first six months, Paul would convene an independent inquiry, chaired by an eminent mental health expert from within the labour movement. The Commission panel of Equity members, expert campaigners and policy makers would take submissions from members, branches, campaign groups, professionals, producers and others. Submissions would be in person, in writing and via member-wide surveys. The Commission would also look at the resource Equity provides to members, as part of the review of our new, improved provision for 2020.
Equity has to remain an independent union, not absorbed into a larger body where our members’ needs are misunderstood and opinions lost. The only way to keep our authoritative place in the industry is to remain independent – and that requires us to be financially stable.
Paul has served as a pension trustee for four years – the staff pension is the largest liability held by the union. As Chair of Southwark Council’s Audit and Governance Committee he oversaw accounts in the billions through years of unprecedented cuts and austerity, and was responsible for overseeing the audit process which ensured the most vulnerable residents and council workers were put first. Paul was a leading figure as a trustee of the Council’s pension scheme which saw it divest £1.2 billion from fossil fuels into funds which deliver a better return for the scheme’s pensioners.
Paul’s strong grasp of finance and economics means he is well placed to steer the union through the short and long term, with clear ideas as to how we can build on the unprecedented growth and stability of Christine Payne’s tenure.
1.) A clear long-term plan for subscription rates should also be established. Members deserve longer notice of rises; and our objective of a union with stable membership, run primarily on their subscriptions can only be achieved if Council has agreed a long-term vision. This review should also include the aims and level of the joining fee and its future.
2.) A Full-Time Carer Rate of subscription should be introduced for members who are not currently seeking work due to parental or other caring responsibilities. The Ways and Means Committee should investigate such a discount immediately on its formation.
3.) Disabled members deserve reasonable adjustments to entry criteria into the union. Those who are unable to work because of their effect on benefits or other factors should face modified professional tests to achieve full membership. In the first six months, Paul would commission the Disabled Members’ Councillor, along with the Deaf and Disabled Members’ Committee to report on how this can be achieved.
4.) A property portfolio is a notable omission in the union’s income sources. We need a short term plan to purchase offices in Cardiff and Manchester to reduce our outgoings, a medium term plan for offices in Northern Ireland and Birmingham, and to be open to purchasing commercial spaces that can raise income for us in a dependable way.
5.) The cost of the staff pension scheme must be carefully managed, but in a way which meets the objective of guaranteeing staff, in the most dependable way, an average salary pension. As a pension trustee and former staff union rep, Paul understands the scheme, its risks and costs, and would have a sensible plan to improve a valuable staff benefit – which compares poorly with other unions – but with a shared objective of reducing the costs to the union.
6.) Expenditure must be more accountable, and union accounting must be more transparent, with every campaign itemised in a single budget line, projected costs established and accountability for overspends. Council should oversee and approve the monies spent, and commission the Ways and Means Committee to investigate overspends or projected costs in detail where Council sees fit.
7.) Staffing is our most important resource – but also our most expensive. Paul’s staffing plans would for the first term be cost neutral, keeping the salary bill at its current level (plus proportionate rises to staff each year). All current members of staff would be valued members of Paul’s vision. Through the union’s generational shift Paul would seek to put more officials in place who have direct contact with members on the ground, especially in the areas set out in this manifesto.