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Equity and SDUK bury the hatchet to unite on directors’ pay

Thomas Hescott. Photo: Robert Workman Thomas Hescott. Photo: Robert Workman
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Stage Directors UK and Equity are to join forces for the first time to fight for better directors’ pay.

The landmark partnership marks a coming together of the two organisations, which have previously come to blows over the representation of theatre directors.

However, industry body SDUK and Equity have now formed a working party that will prepare a new claim to revise Equity’s directors’ collective agreements with the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre in early 2018.

The party will meet throughout 2017 to identify proposals for a claim, with Equity taking forward the negotiations as they have bargaining rights as a recognised union.

Equity does accept director members, but numbers have historically been low.

SDUK was formed in 2014, claiming it could better represent the needs of directors working in theatre and opera than Equity could at the time.

Last year, Equity president Malcolm Sinclair admitted that the union had failed directors in the past. Former SDUK chief executive Piers Haggard subsequently warned Equity not to pursue efforts to encourage more members, claiming it had not spoken for directors “for a very long time”.

The new partnership will see SDUK have a similar relationship with Equity as the Stage Management Association does.

SDUK executive director Thomas Hescott said working with the union would ensure better conditions for directors but would not lead to SDUK being subsumed by Equity.

“Because of the number of performers and creatives that Equity represents, directors will always be a minority, so it’s important that we have our own organisation to look after our own needs. However, all the best things happen in collaboration. What we have done, with the working party, is a really unique thing,” Hescott told The Stage.

He added that the two bodies brought different things to the table; SDUK its member expertise and information on the current landscape for directors, and Equity the trade union features such as professional negotiators and a legal department.

“Equity and SDUK working in partnership has the ability to be a united voice speaking out for a fairer deal. Strong contracts and good working conditions help create a fairer, more diverse industry that anyone can access, whatever their background. That’s what SDUK and Equity are working towards,” he said.

The partnership will officially launch on June 27, when a meeting will be held to ensure members’ ideas and concerns can be voiced and carried forward to the working party.

Equity deputy general secretary Stephen Spence admitted that improving pay and conditions had traditionally been hard for the union as it lacked the required density of director members.

“Historically our view would have been that directors need to join Equity, but SDUK has been very successful in being an identity that directors have felt comfortable engaging with.

“I don’t think it’s any great mystery given things that have been said publicly that the discussion has at times not always been straightforward, but we have arrived at a point where we can work together on these negotiations.”

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