Performers and stage managers will have to provide evidence of a minimum level of earnings to represent specialist seats on Equity’s council, under a rule change being considered by the union.
Equity said the rule change, which aims to ensure those who represent its members have “recent, relevant experience in their particular field“, would require candidates seeking election to have earned a minimum of £500 over the three-year qualifying period.
However, the rule change – current being voted on by members – has been met with criticism in a statement of disapproval submitted to members with the rule change referendum, which claims the change would be “disadvantageous” to many and deny equal access to the council.
Equity said the current union rule already requires candidates to provide evidence of professional work, but said the change would “remove any element of interpretation or subjectivity”.
It said that prospective members of the union already had to provide evidence of a minimum level of earnings and described it as “fair” that candidates seeking election to the ruling body should too.
It said the £500 amount was reasonable, as it “equates to just over three years of minimum subscription”.
The rule change would apply to candidates for seats representing professional specialisms, including dancers, singers, stage management and variety performers, as well as for the seats for members with disabilities, and the minority ethnic seats. Equity stressed that any member can put themselves forward for a seat on the council in the general list category, and that this requires no proof of earnings, with 12 positions available.
However, a statement against the change argues earnings are not “necessarily reflective of one’s experience or involvement in the industry”.
In addition, the statement – which urges members to vote no – says there is less work for minority ethnic members, LGBT members and women, and warned that requiring minimum earnings was “potentially discriminatory”.
It continues that there was no way of knowing what a future council might determine the earnings requirement to be, and adds: “An earnings requirement, arbitrarily set by the council, and with no provision for reasonable adjustment, makes it impossible to give equal access to union governance to all our members, and excludes those members whose voices we most need.”
The union is also holding a vote on two other rule changes, including asking members to vote on removing the word “non-sectarian” to describe itself. Instead, it wants to be referred to as a trade union independent of “any political party or religious faith”.
It claims this is needed to remove the ambiguity around the term non-sectarian, which it said had “caused us difficulties over the years”.
“For many people, ‘sect’ has a purely religious connotation, but the courts have ruled that it can have a much wider meaning. In the 1980s, for example, it was used to impede the union’s fight against apartheid,” it said.
All three proposed rule changes were approved by members at Equity’s Conference in 2019 and by Equity’s Council, the union’s governing body, which is urging members to vote yes to all three proposals.
The rule change referendum is running until October 31.