Virgin Trains bosses have agreed to meet with Equity following an unpaid voice-over competition it launched that sparked outrage among performers.
In a letter to the union, the train company also apologised for “ill-judged” social media comments it made in response to some actors who had complained about the competition to find the new voice of its on-board toilets.
When the competition was announced, actors complained to Virgin Trains on social media site Twitter, claiming it was a “slap in the face” to those who do voice-overs professionally.
Virgin Trains’ official site responded to one user, saying: “If you won a competition to give out the award for best actor at the Oscars, would you ask for payment? Or would you be proud that you were chosen as one of five members of the public? This is a competition, not a job.”
Equity labelled this “offensive” and called for a meeting with Virgin Trains.
Responding to Equity’s call for a meeting between the two parties, Virgin Trains admitted some of the responses to actors on social media had been “ill-judged in their content”.
Matt Hood, assistant general secretary, said: “Following Equity’s open letter to Virgin trains regarding its voice-over competition, the union has received a reply from the company’s managing director Phil Whittingham. He apologises for some of the organisation’s social media comments regarding the issue, agreeing they were ‘ill-judged in their content’.”
Hood said Whittingham was also prepared to meet the union to better understand the needs of members.
“Equity is arranging a meeting and will take the opportunity to bring up a number of points, including the rising cost of train travel,” he said.
A Virgin Trains spokesman said: “Equity invited us to meet with them and we’re happy to do so. It’s an opportunity to reiterate the respect we have for the acting community and the fact that we have worked with many actors and voice-over artists over the years and will continue to do so.”
He added: “We’re also happy to talk about the fact that, on this occasion, we’re not looking to hire a professional actor as we’re running a fun competition for customers to get involved with if they’d like to – people who would never normally have an opportunity such as this. There is no obligation to take part, no need to have any prior experience or training, and there’s no cost involved in the audition process.”