By Lin Parkin
December 6, 2007
Recognize the masks to the left?
Representing comedy and tragedy, these masks are possibly the most recognizable symbol of performance in the world.
Many people don™t realize this is actually a union logo. It belongs to Equity, the UK™s entertainment trade union.
A Brief History of Equity
Equity was formed by a group of London West End performers in 1930, and has since traveled a long, successful road of campaigning, legislation, and lobbying for the rights of artists across all sectors of the entertainment industry. By the time Equity was in its second year of existence it had 3,000 members. Today Equity serves over 36,000 members.
It is unique in that it is the only union that covers all performers and creative personnel working professionally in the United Kingdom. This includes; actors, voice over artists, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, circus and variety artists, television and radio presenters, stunt performers and directors, theatre fight directors, walk-on, and supporting artists.
Equity has alliances with many other organizations including; Amnesty, British Equity Collecting Society (BECS), Council of Dance Education and Training (CDET), Federation of Entertainment Unions, International Performers Aid Trust (IPAT), National Council for Drama Training (NCDT), and the Performers Alliance.
Equity does not maintain an affiliation to any political parties. Union delegates lobby government and employers indiscriminately, solely in the interest of its members and for the entertainment industry in the UK on whole. Equity is affiliated with the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and attends its annual conference to broaden awareness of the unique issues pertaining to entertainers and creative personnel.
Equity also has affiliation agreements with many sister unions from around the world including, but not limited to, SAG and AFTRA. In the 1950™s Equity was involved in co-founding the International Federation of Actors and in more recent years members of Equity united to help artists in need in other parts of the world by forming the International Committee for Artistic Freedom.
The Equity Benevolent Fund
œThe Equity Benevolent Fund and œThe Evelyn Norris Trust fund were created to aide performers in times of need. In addition, the union provides a pension plan called the œEquity Pension Scheme. Employers working with Equity are required to make contributions to the fund so that performers will someday have an opportunity to retire with peace-of-mind.
To join Equity you must be a working professional or student in the creative or entertainment field. There are several types of membership available including; Full, Rejoin, Student, Graduate, Youth, Visiting Artist, Long Service, and Honorable Withdrawal Membership.
The cost of a Full membership is based on last year™s gross annual income earned from performance or creative work. You must provide proof of professional employment.
Gross annual income = this subscription
20,000 or less = 125.
20,000 - 35,000 = 200
35,000 - 50,000 = 325
At more than 50,000 members pay 1% of their total gross income.
Youth memberships are available to children between 14 and 15 years old who are working professionally in the entertainment industry and earning at least half of the adult employment rates. Youth members receive Full benefits of membership with Equity.
There is an initiation fee of E25, plus E20 subscription fee.
Student memberships are available to students enrolled in a full-time university curriculum who are preparing to work in the entertainment field as an actor, stage manager, dancer, choreographer, singer, variety artist, circus performer, or professional broadcaster. The cost of this membership is just E15.
Within 12 months of Graduating from an approved program, student members may upgrade their membership to a Full subscription and have the student cost of membership taken off their annual cost as a Full member. Proof of professional employment is not necessary upon graduating from a student membership to a full member.
Visiting Artists may apply for membership with Equity while working on an Equity approved job in the UK. They receive all of the benefits of a full membership for the duration of their work schedule. The cost to join as a visitor is E25, plus 1 % of the earning from the Equity approved job, to a maximum of E 2,000.
A member who has been an Equity subscriber continually over a period of 21 years or more, and is over 65 years of age, is eligible for a Long Service Membership. The fee for this membership is 50% of the Full subscription rate appropriate to their level of income.
Honorable Withdrawal is available for up to date members who are taking a career break, and are not actively seeking or accepting employment in the entertainment industry. The membership is not lost, but is held as in-active for up to 3 years and costs E25.
A Rejoin membership is available to people who were once Full members, and wish to rejoin the union. It is not necessary to provide proof of employment if you were a full member previously.
Compensation and Fair Pay
Equity negotiates fair pay, and the terms and conditions of work contracts on behalf of its members in all areas of the entertainment industry in the UK. It also provides free consultations to members on legal rights and provides advice on National Insurance, taxes, benefits, pension plans, and welfare issues. The British Association of Performing Arts Medicine provides members with a helpline, clinics, and advice on performance related medical, dental, and psychological issues.
Ensuring that members are being compensated with residuals and royalties for their recorded work, Equity carefully monitors all new media on both national and international levels. Members can choose to be featured in the union™s bank of registers, which is given to employers and casting directors upon request. Members have access to a job posting service that allows them to view all current jobs available industry wide in the UK. Duplicate names are not allowed in the union, so Equity provides a service to
members helping them select a professional name using this tool: www.spotlight.com
Added Membership Benefits
Members also enjoy discounts on many goods and services including hotel stays, car breakdown recovery, ticket prices, and more.
There are seven main offices. Equity is headquartered in London, England and there are offices that provide coverage for the Midlands, the North East, North West and Isle of Man, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the South East, Wales and South West. There are also 31 local branches spread across the UK.
To find an office near you, visit the official Equity website here:
About The Author
Lin Parkin lives in London, Ontario, Canada where she is an Account Manager and writer for Voices.com, the #1 online market place for voice overs. Voices.com is home to over 15,000 voice actors from around the world representing over 100 languages and services over 60,000 clients who need voice overs recorded for their projects.
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