Actor and writer Daniel York Loh has claimed he has been subjected to an attempt to get him disqualified from Equity’s council elections.
He said the person responsible had tried to do so via "an arcane technicality" in the rulebook.
York Loh, who was formerly chair of the union’s minority ethnic members committee, says he is standing in the elections because he wants to create a "more democratic" union following a race row sparked by comments made by actor Laurence Fox.
The minority ethnic members committee resigned in March in protest of the union’s decision to issue an apology to Fox for tweets sent out by the committee labelling Fox a "disgrace" for comments he made on BBC1’s Question Time.
York Loh told The Stage he is standing for council with the aim of making the union "more democratic", improving communication between members and leadership, and giving more of a voice to minority ethnic, disabled and LGBTQ+ members.
However, York Loh said someone had tried to get him disqualified from the elections via rule 14.3 in the union’s rulebook. This states that no member should be eligible for election if they work in a managerial capacity with which Equity negotiates wages, after seeing York Loh listed as founder and co-artistic director of Moongate Productions on an open letter from ethnically diverse arts leaders to the government.
The actor and writer told The Stage: "Obviously Equity members are employed [by Moongate Productions], but I don’t manage them, I don’t issue the contracts and the ludicrous thing is we’re not-for-profit, so we’re not sat there trying to negotiate the wages. The artist/producer model is so much more prevalent these days, especially among minority ethnic people in the industry - it’s the only way you can get work really.
He added: "It’s 100% deliberate. That would have taken a lot of effort, and I don’t really believe it’s out of concern that if I got on council I would be trying to keep wages down so I could employ actors cheaper. To me it’s a manipulative use of the rule book."
York Loh also described the union as a "very white, mainstream space" and criticised the way it currently functions.
He added: "The way Equity functions is like the Chinese Communist Party. Everything is centralised, everything is secretive and there’s a single message. If you deviate or start arguing then you’re told you’re dividing the union. It’s horrendous, it’s no way to carry on frankly."
An Equity spokesman confirmed that a member had raised a concern about York Loh standing for council and that the matter had been resolved.
Addressing the York Loh’s comment about the lack of diversity in the union, the spokesman said: "Equity welcomes Daniel’s insight on challenging mainstream white space across the entertainment industry.
"We would also welcome his engagement with the union’s independent commission for race equality as they are working on an anti-racism policy and strategy with the aim of making real and lasting change in our industry."
Equity also responded to the comments criticising the functioning of the union.
The spokesman said: "Equity has 17 committees that are democratically elected every two years. Equity’s governing body the council, which consists of 32 councillors plus the president, is also democratically elected from the membership every two years.
"The union’s annual conference of members meets once a year and it is a place where members make decisions (called motions) to affect union policy. 47 motions were passed last year."
It added that further information about the council, committees and branches can be found on the union’s website.