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Equity and SDUK clash over who best represents directors

Stage Directors UK chairman Piers Haggard Piers Haggard, chief executive of Stage Directors UK
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A bitter war of words has erupted between new industry body Stage Directors UK and union Equity over who can best represent directors in the industry.

It follows an admission from Equity that it has not been serving its director members very well. Assistant general secretary Stephen Spence also criticised SDUK at its recent annual conference, at which he claimed the new body lacked clout.

Now, SDUK chief executive Piers Haggard has penned an open letter to Equity in which he claims the union has not “spoken for directors… for a very long time”.

He also claims that the union should not pursue efforts to encourage directors to sign up to Equity because “those days are over”.

Haggard writes that, in the 18 months since it was founded, SDUK has “transformed the conditions of British directors”. He highlighted a new assistants’ agreement that has “put in place some long overdue protections for early career directors”.

Haggard points out that the body is working on a number of initiatives, including masterclasses, training and a forum, adding: “There are many, many areas that traditional industrial negotiation does not reach.”

He continues: “Equity officials have been urging SDUK members to ‘join the union and get involved in its negotiations’. I fear those days are over. Equity is now for actors: it has not spoken for directors or designers for a very long time, as our creative colleagues in the Society of British Theatre Designers, the Association of Lighting Designers and the Association of Sound Designers have confirmed, and Equity’s own leaders seem to acknowledge.”

He states that SDUK has made a formal offer to work with Equity when the union comes to renewing its directors’ agreement in 2018 but says: “There will be no swallowing up of SDUK members, who are deeply committed to doing their own thing from now on.”

Haggard goes on to write that, if the two bodies could not work together, “perhaps an entirely new union of directors and designers might be the best route forward”.

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