David Morrissey and Julie Walters call for an end to exploitation in the industry
Actors David Morrissey and Julie Walters are backing an Equity campaign aimed at ensuring performers are paid properly, with Morrissey claiming the “culture that exploits people’s love of their work” has to end.
Morrissey also admitted that he had been “worried for some time” that the industry is difficult to get started in for performers who are not from a “wealthy background”.
Meanwhile, Walters – who earlier this week said in an interview with the Guardian that working-class actors were not being given the opportunities to work in the sector – claimed “it shouldn’t be a surprise that there aren’t enough working-class actors” when people are expected to work for free.
Equity’s new initiative, called Professionally Made Professionally Paid, builds on the union’s ongoing campaigning around low pay/no pay, which began in 2012 in response to performers complaining of not being properly paid for their work.
A survey from Equity in 2013 also found that 50% of performers earn less than £5,000 a year.
With the year-long Professionally Made Professionally Paid campaign, Equity will highlight the work the union has already done in this area – including the appointment of a dedicated low pay industrial organiser – and mobilise “members to resist low and no pay”.
The union’s campaign will emphasise the contracts it has in place for productions with low budgets, such as those on the fringe, and “educate members as to their rights” to minimum wage.
Morrissey said: “As professionals, it’s essential that we stand up for our rights and our ability to make a proper living from our work. I’ve been worried for some time about how hard this industry has become for anyone to get started in, especially if they aren’t from a wealthy background, and it’s clear low and no pay is a major barrier.”
Morrissey said that he could accept that poor pay had always existed in the industry, but described the issue as a major one that “needs tackling”.
“We can’t allow this culture that exploits creative people’s love of their work. If you’re a professional, you deserve professional pay, and that’s the clear message of this campaign. I’m proud that my trade union is leading the charge to make the industry fairer and proud to support the Professionally Made Professionally Paid campaign,” he added.
Walters said “everyone who cares about diversity on stage and screen” should support the campaign.
“I was able to get my career started because I had a full grant to go to college, but kids now don’t have those opportunities. If on top of that young actors are expected to work for years for free it shouldn’t be a surprise that there aren’t enough working class actors. It’s great that Equity is sending a clear message that professional work deserves professional pay and I urge everyone in the industry to support the campaign,” she said.
In a guide it has produced to support the campaign, Equity states the trend for low or no pay is “damaging the industry” and highlights it is illegal to pay adult workers anything less than minimum wage.
It adds that it wants to work with employers to help them avoid “any unpleasant and expensive problems”.
The union has designed posters that members can display in support of the campaign. Equity is also asking members to let the union know, in confidence, when they have had to work for low or no pay. Members can also request an Equity visit to a production they are working on.