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Touring conditions for young actors ‘almost Dickensian’ – Equity

Equity councillor Jean Rogers Equity councillor Jean Rogers
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Many young actors face “almost Dickensian” touring conditions according to Equity’s Women’s Committee, which is urging venues only to hire theatre companies that respect the law.

According to the committee, “mostly young and vulnerable actors” who are statistically likely to be women face “awful” conditions on small-scale tours to schools, village halls and care homes.

Representatives for the committee were speaking at the annual Trades Union Congress Women’s Conference, where a motion was passed that aimed to combat the issue.

It follows a similar motion passed at Equity’s Annual Representative Conference, which called on the union to recognise the “draconian” conditions faced by touring pantomime actors.

The motion on small-scale tours was seconded by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

A speech drafted by committee member Jean Rogers said: “Too often the conditions these actors face could almost be described as Dickensian. These members are overwhelmingly young, fearing reprisals if they stand up for their rights.”

Rogers added that some employers breach basic working regulations by paying below the national minimum wage, with some wages as low as £150 for 40 or 50 hours of work a week with no paid holiday.

According to the Women’s Committee, Equity members’ lives are often at risk because they are “expected to drive unreliable, under-insured vehicles in order to operate dangerously tight schedules involving hours of work far beyond safety limits”.

Equity has said it is “very concerned”, and aims to raise employers’ standards by promoting union contracts that protect members’ safety and rights.

The motion calls on the relevant trade unions to help ensure decent standards by hiring companies that respect the law and show a duty of care.