A ballot for Equity members to decide who will replace outgoing general secretary Christine Payne will open next month, with two candidates in the running.
The election will be between Paul Fleming, who is the union’s West End organiser and joined the union in 2011, and Simon Curtis, who has worked for Equity as national and regional organiser for Wales and South West England since 2012.
Fleming has won the backing of the union’s council, and has 40 nominations from members in benefit. Curtis has 40 nominations from members in benefit.
Fleming’s supporters include Olivia Colman, Maxine Peake, Samuel West, Indhu Rubasingham and Tanya Moodie.
Curtis’ supporters include Miriam Margolyes, Tom Burke, Mark Curry, Ian Talbot and former Equity president Frederick Pyne.
In his manifesto, Fleming said that under his leadership he would have “a team of staff and members working together for a shared objective of social justice for our members”.
He has promised a visit to two workplaces a fortnight, from a West End show, a theatre in education tour, a film set to pubs and clubs across the UK, and has vowed to speak at every branch in the first 15 months.
He has also pledged to “build relationships with senior management at the BBC, independent production companies, and maintain his connections with the biggest commercial and subsidised theatre producers to help add pressure and power to our industrial work”.
Fleming said he would focus on all members, stating he would unite them by “focusing not only on minimum pay, but secondary payments, the work/life balance, press intrusion, reforms to libel laws, and standing up when government makes the wrong decision – whether it’s on the arts, workers’ rights or from HMRC”.
Curtis, meanwhile, said he would actively improve the union’s communication and engagement with the “many members who feel left out of what Equity should be and stand for”.
He also said he was committed to fighting for “the best Brexit”.
“I passionately believe that we should have remained in the EU because of the real damage leaving will make to members’ working lives. But it is clear we need to accept the result. What we do not have to accept is the worst possible Brexit, so we need to keep fighting for freedom of movement, funding, workers’ rights and a possible postponement as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
He also said he planned to “revitalise” the working life of Equity’s membership and would work with governments across the UK to “eradicate socio-economic disadvantage, to reduce the inequalities of outcome, and increase social justice – fundamentally bringing fairer working conditions”.
“Equity must also tackle the damage that is being done to the arts by the lack of clarity and structure in cultural education in schools,” he said.
Last month, Payne said elections had to be delayed because of the pandemic.
The ballot will take place over five weeks, with the ballot opening on June 1 and closing on July 8.