A row between Equity and its black and minority ethnic members that was sparked by comments actor Laurence Fox made has prompted the launch of an independent commission, created to “radically reform” the union’s anti-racism work.
The Independent Commission for Race Equality is aimed at addressing “organisational conflict” within the union, which resulted in its entire Race Equality Commission resigning en masse following a row sparked by comments made by Fox on BBC’s Question Time.
Actors Tanya Moodie and Dawn Hope are on the commission, which will explore the impact of the committee’s resignation on relations with black and minority ethnic members. It is part of what the union has labelled a “wide-ranging review of Equity’s activity to address the long-standing discriminatory practices they face”.
The body, which also includes Johnny Worthy and Chipo Chung, will be able to call meetings, invite expert witnesses, commission research, collaborate and work with members, and make alliances across the community of workers in the entertainment industry.
It will report directly to the council and make ongoing recommendations, concluding its work in December 2020.
Part of its remit will be to examine the process for re-electing a new REC. Equity said the commission welcomed “a strong, positive working relationship with those who resigned from the REC” and hoped the move would “transform recent organisational conflict into an opportunity for radical social change”.
“This group has been approached with the offer of being the first body of expert witnesses to contribute evidence to the commission,” Equity said.
The commission is co-chaired by Worthy, Moodie and Chung.
Moodie said: “The commission’s role is to listen to the union’s black and minority ethnic membership, ask the union leadership fundamental questions about how it organises, represents and fights for black and minority ethnic workers, and take urgent action to radically reform the union’s anti-racism work.”
Hope, who will represent the union’s council on the commission, said she wanted to bring “transparency, accountability, and respect to the urgent concerns of all Equity’s black and minority ethnic members”. She said this would be achieved through “understanding the long frustrations that have built up, both in places of work and within the union itself”.
Chung said the group would not replace the work of former members of the Race Equality Committee, but “provide a space of inquiry, accountability, collaboration, and solidarity, with the potential for real social change within our industry”.
Last month, more than 100 prominent actors and theatremakers including Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Shobna Gulati warned that trust in Equity has been “critically undermined” by its handling of the Fox row and that new leadership is required to secure “meaningful progress” for minority ethnic members.
In an open letter, they stated they would not take part in the commission until new leadership is in place following elections later this year.