Monday, April 21, 2014

Equity's Health and Insurance Plan

Interesting timing. I had just finished doing up a list of extraordinary risk riders for my current show a couple of weeks ago, when a friend forwarded the following link from The Stage to me:

Long story short: actor, in the business 20 years; never joined Equity (UK); injured on the job; no disability (income replacement) coverage; off work for at least a year; young family to help support; and worrying about being branded a "troublemaker" for seeking insurance assistance from the engager.

Contrast that with how CAEA's coverage for members works:

- no tenure requirement for coverage
- automatic coverage while on contract, from day one
- disability coverage for up to 104 weeks

I'm not certain what the insurance situation is with our sister organisation in the UK, but I'm betting it's better than "none". It's a shame the artist never saw the value of becoming an Equity member, and I wish him the best in his recovery.

Take the time to review your CAEA insurance coverage. A lot has changed in the past year, so if the last time you read that brochure on the callboard was when you joined, it's time for a refresher! You can find all the details here

Learn about your insurance coverage. We hope you never have a critical need for it; but if you should, it's there.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Talk to Council! We're listening.

Council is your board, and for us to do our work well, we need to hear from you. We've recently upgraded the website to make that even easier.

Take a moment, and stop by EQUITYONLINE. (Go ahead: click it!) On the front page, top right, are a few new links. Talk to Council will take you to a page where all the Councillors are listed. Clicking on the photo of any of them will open a new email window, so you can drop your Councillor a note. The Council Committees link will take you to a page with mandate and contact info for each of Council's several regional and issues committees. The final link, Request for Council Action (login required), will open up a form you can use to suggest an agenda topic for Council to tackle. And, of course, if clicking and typing is not your thing, a letter or phone call to Equity Council, via our national office, will connect you up as well.

We'd also like you to know what we are up to…

A couple of days before each meeting, Council's agenda will be posted online. Within a few days after each meeting, a summary of all motions passed will be posted. Following adoption at the subsequent meeting, full minutes will be added. You can find these under the Council Reports heading of the members-only section of the website (login required), along with a full year's worth of monitoring reports on all aspects of Equity's operations. Copies of any of these documents, as well as recent archived copies, can also be requested by contacting the office.

And while we're on the topic of Council meetings, did you know you are allowed to attend them? You can - both in-person and teleconferences. A list of upcoming meeting dates can be found here. If you would like to attend, please let us know at least a few days in advance, by contacting the Council President at

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New rules for CTA ratification votes

During the 2012 ratification vote for the CTA, there was considerable member discussion on the eligibility criteria for voting. A bit of background: the voting pool for all agreements has historically been defined as members who have been engaged under the expiring agreement (typically the previous three years).

As mentioned at the time, the rationale for this approach was threefold: equal voting rights across all negotiated agreements; a ratification processes within our financial resources; and a decision made by members with the most current knowledge and whose input shaped the negotiations. Still, members made it clear that they thought it was time for a change, and Council has recently completed bylaw amendments to bring that about.

Going forward, the CTA will have a separate set of ratification rules. All members in good standing who have worked under any theatre agreement providing for minimum scale fees*, during the six year period ending with the expiry date of the agreement, will now be automatically eligible to vote. This change will increase the voting pool considerably. 

In addition, any member in good standing who is not automatically included in that six-year pool may also register to vote in the ratification. Registration will begin six months before the expiry date of the agreement, and extend until the anticipated date for close of negotiations. Advance notice regarding registration will be provided in plenty of time for members to get on the list.

Note that these changes do not affect the voting pool for the Stratford Addendum, nor any other agreement.

Council chose this dual approach as a way to balance greater automatic access with the increased costs of having a larger voting pool. We hope, through these changes, to provide voting access to our largest agreement to all members in good standing who may wish to vote. This change will be first applied to the ratification vote expected in 2015.

* This includes all current theatre agreements, except for the Festival Waiver and the Artists' Collective Policy.

Friday, March 7, 2014

2014 Honours Evening

After a year of hiatus, while we moved to a biennial schedule to reduce expenses, it was truly wonderful to attend the honours evening once again. This year's awards ceremony was held Monday, February 24 at the Daniels Spectrum in downtown Toronto, immediately following the National AGM. Councillors, past honorees and members from the area all came together to celebrate the 2014 slate of honours recipients.

Philip Akin (Toronto), Janet Irwin (Ottawa) and Kenneth Welsh (Toronto) were granted Life Membership in Equity, in recognition of their lengthy careers and manifold contributions to live performance. We also welcomed arts supporter Gail Asper (Manitoba) as an Honorary Member, acknowledging many years of support of the performing arts, in Winnipeg and across the country.

Former five-term Councillor Don Wright (Vancouver) received the Larry McCance Award in appreciation for his many years of dedicated service to the wester opera membership. And finally, the CAEA Award of Distinction was presented to Stage Managing the Arts (S.M.Arts), which, for the past 18 years has provided top-notch professional development to the stage management community. 
S.M.Arts Director Janelle Rainville and S.M.Arts Founder Winston Morgan were present to accept the award.

What a lovely way to wrap up the AGM this year. We spend so much time pursuing our own individual careers; it is a delight to get together and celebrate some truly special ones.

See more details, plus photos of the event, here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - Thank you

Thank you.

Thank you for engaging and voting, however you voted.

Thank you for approving the due increase. It will allow Council and staff to plan and implement changes for improvement, instead of diminishment.

Thank you for your vote of confidence in the future of your association.

A day or so after the voting closed, a friend wrote me and said "I bet you're glad that that's all done, huh?" I understand what she meant, but I think she missed the bigger point - it isn't. The dues referendum may be over, but the purpose of the increase was to help us plan for the future – the future begins right now, and it goes on forever. First steps are clear enough: we have a deficit that we need to retire. But beyond that, we need to make good on the commitment to ongoing improvement and change.

In short, Council needs to earn the trust you have shown us through your vote. The real work of the dues referendum is just beginning, but we're up for it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dues Referendum 2014 - Vote!

If you haven't voted yet, what are you waiting for? As a member, you have a say in how this association operates, and your vote is your voice. Please don't waste this opportunity to weigh in on this important decision. Voting takes mere minutes, and is about as easy as easy gets.

(I'm on a mission to see if we can't crack a 50% return rate, and you, my friend, are a key part of that plan!)

Voting closes today.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why I voted 'yes'

I think the time has come to talk about why I voted 'yes'.

I know - you're thinking: "You're the Council President. You had to."

No, I didn't. This is not a Council vote; this is a member vote, and I vote as a member, just like you.

I am fortunate enough to have work most of the year. This proposal, which increases working dues as well, is going to cost me more than the 2011 proposal would have. I confess there is part of me that grates at that, but I voted 'yes' anyhow. The difference, for a whole year, is much less than one month of utility bills, or insurance payments, or my mortgage. It is less than I sometimes spend on a single trip to the grocery store, and I’ll admit to having coughed up far more cash on a whim for things more trivial and transient than my Equity membership.

There is perhaps 5% of our membership who, by virtue of personal status, are able to just wait for the phone to ring with their next job offer, or who are able to waltz into an engager's office and demand work terms equivalent to what Equity has negotiated. And then there are the remaining 95% of us. Including me. I recognise that Equity, by dint of long, hard work by members current and past, is responsible for most of what I have come to accept as a "given" in my career. I rely on that.

I voted 'yes' because I want Equity to be strong, not just for me, but also for the 6000 members who are not me, even if what would benefit them individually is different from what would benefit me personally. Yes, it will cost me a bit more, but I made a choice that will benefit everyone: me, members I know, and members I will never meet.

In the end, whatever you might want Equity do for you, it has to have the resources to do it, and to tackle ideas for future improvement, which will otherwise just keep gathering dust on the wish list shelf. Whom does voting 'no' benefit? Lack of resources going forward will only mean that Equity will be able to do less and less of what you want it to, and its ability to do anything meaningful will atrophy.

Nothing ever starved its way to strength. Vote for strength. I did.