Following a union-wide referendum, Equity members have voted in favour of reducing the number of seats on its ruling council by one third, as part of controversial plans to create a more streamlined structure for the trade body.
A total of just 6% of all members voted with 59% of those supporting the move to reduce seats.
The council will seat 31 members plus the union’s president, instead of its current 46 capacity (in addition to the president). These changes will be implemented from the next round of council elections in 2014.
Specialist seats for audio artists, choreographers, chorus and ensemble, opera, stunt performers, walk-ons, a London area representative, theatre in education and young people’s theatre will be removed.
Theatre designers and directors will also lose their seats. However two new ‘creative team’ seats will be provided for choreographers, theatre designers, theatre directors and fight directors. These seats will comprise two representatives from different disciplines, who will be elected every two years.
For the first time, there will also be one reserved seat for members with disabilities and one for a young member, aged 26 or younger.
General seats – in which any member can stand – will be reduced from 17 to 12 and variety and circus members, who currently have six seats, will now have four.
Equity last reduced the number of seats on its council ten years ago from 67 seats to 46, but this is the first time this change has been in line with a reorganisation of the trade union across the board.
The referendum also included a vote on a second rule change on whether to allow members to send representatives from English area annual general meetings to the union’s annual representative conference. A majority of 60% of voters supported this move, meaning that from 2014, elected representatives from London, the midlands, south-west, south-east, and northern areas will have a right to attend the ARC. This move is in parallel to proposed changes in Equity’s committee structure that would see the removal of its English area committees, which currently send their own representatives to the national annual conference.
Christine Payne, general secretary of Equity, said: “This is an enormous step in the modernisation of Equity. Even though the turnout was low, the decision was clear – 60% of members voting wanted change.
“This decision, coupled with the changes to Equity committees and online structures we are also discussing, will allow more working members to be involved in their union, making decisions and influencing policy which directly affects their working lives.
“The new structures will sit very well alongside Equity’s annual representative conference in creating an effective democratic voice for members.”