Friday, May 21, 2010

"Equity does nothing for us"

A recent notice that the ITR Committee had begun work attracted the anonymous comment that now appears as the title of this post. I declined the comment because it didn't contribute anything to the topic at hand. Still, I know that more than a few people feel this way. I also don't wish to see a member comment go to waste, so I'm turning it into its own topic.

When you stop to consider the statement, you have to concede that it is pretty extreme. A claim that "Equity doesn't do much/enough for us" would include at least tacit recognition of the many things that Equity does do, even if you consider them to be insufficient or badly in need of improvement. Without restating all of our Ends policies, it's pretty hard to ignore benefits such as the recent Audition Project, disability insurance, professional development subsidies, prompt response to unsafe work environments or those poisoned by harassment or abuse, secured contracts, participation in the Senior Artists' Research Project, audition postings and political advocacy.

Speaking of advocacy, when the new EI Benefits for the Self-employed sprang into being, how do you think that came to pass? Equity and several other groups have been lobbying for that exact thing for years. Guess who asked us to lobby for it? Members. It sure as heck didn't happen quickly, but most things governmental don't. We just kept working on it until it did.

Equity's core worth is that together we can achieve more than we can individually. Two quick examples...

Through collective action we have established minimum fees for most contracts. You can negotiate more if you are able to, but you never need to be worried that you will be expected to accept less. There are certainly some members in a position to say to an engager, "Don't waste my time with an offer of less than X." And then there are the other 95% of us. Give it some thought: which group are you in? Would you prefer to negotiate your fee up to the value of your skill, or down to beat the next lowest bidder? Equity negotiated those minimum fees for you, so you don't have to.

Disability insurance is another example of collective benefit. I did a bit of digging around to see how much that might cost an individual. I couldn't find any online quotes that covered disability – that's the point at which they ask you to contact an agent. So, based on a few numbers for extended accident and sickness coverage only, I'm going to guess that extended health plus disability would cost me roughly $150/month, month in and month out.

By pooling our insurance needs and premiums, members currently have that coverage while on contract, from as little as $14/workweek (most of which is paid for by a 2003 fee top-up from engagers). You could never come anywhere close to that premium level on an individual basis. And because we control our own plan and don’t have to choose one “off the rack”, we can make the kinds of changes that were recently announced, as well as those likely to come out of our current review. Again, Equity built that plan and negotiated the engager contributions that cover most of the cost.

So, does Equity really do "nothing" for its members? It might make for a good online zinger, but it doesn't owe much to the truth.

I'm the first to say it: there is a lot we could do better. Council and staff are constantly working to do just that. If you want to see improvements, contact your local CPAG rep or Council's Member Liaison and start that discussion. It works.

If you don't care if things improve or not, launching spitballs from the wings is as good an approach as any.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Independent Theatre Review Committee seeks members

Just a quick note to let everyone know that the ITR Committee is seeking additional members to assist on this project, and details are posted here.