Monday, March 25, 2013

Advisory Committee Update #1

The first four of the new Advisory Committees were formally struck at today's Council Meeting, and they are:
  • Equity Independent and Small-Scale Theatre Resource Committee - Mark Brownell, committee liaison 
  • Member Communications and Education Committee - Aaron Willis, committee liaison 
  • Directors, Choreographers, and Fight Directors Committee - Vinetta Strombergs, committee liaison 
  • Stage Management Committee - Allan Teichman, committee liaison 
The contact info for members who expressed an interest in participating in these committees has been passed on to the liaison for consideration. Because each committee has a requirement for representative composition, it will be up to the liaison to put together a group meeting that standard.

In April, Council will begin work on the next set of committees, so stay tuned...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Did you know? - Venue health and safety

Each of Equity's agreements and engagement policies includes language about providing a safe and sanitary place of work. I wrote about this in some detail a few years back.

Upon being told about these rules, the most common question members then ask is: what about the midsize theatre, the name of which I will not mention, but which is close to [location] in the city of [name], where the actors have to share dressing room space with [name of vermin], and the [name of plumbing fixture] in dressing room [x] has not worked properly since [year]? 

The answer to this is invariably: we didn't know, or we'd have done something about it.

What most members don't realise is that we don't have a stealth squad of health inspectors roaming the theatres of the country. However, we will deal with issues promptly if you tell us about them. That's right - you have to let us know that there is problem, and, please, not two years later as part of a random conversation.

If you are experiencing a health and safety issue, either with the work environment or the work you are being asked to do, speak up about it. First, talk to your deputy and/or stage manager, so that they aware that there is a problem. The fact that [name of vermin] are raising a family in your makeup tray will not spontaneously come to their attention. 

And please, don't do it as an offhand comment at the bar - make a formal complaint and ask for something to be done about it. Engagers have both a legal responsibility under workplace safety legislation, and a contractual responsibility to Equity, to take action on workplace health and safety issues.

And if nothing is done, please get on the phone to staff promptly, and they will see to it. It's what you pay them for.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

2013 NAGM

Another National AGM has come and gone. Well, not entirely gone... 

If you were not in the Toronto area on February 25, or couldn't make it to the meeting, videos of the main presentations are posted at, along with information on Equity's new insurance plan and the most recent audited financial statement. Swing on over and have a look. It's your association, and we want you know what's going on.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Did you know? - Fee security

Did you know that Council requires Equity staff to ensure secured payment of a portion of most contracts? The principal exceptions to this rule are fringe and certain independent/small-scale productions, where no security is held. This security is variously managed by having the engager place a deposit with Equity, equivalent to the fees and benefits for part of the contract, or by prepayment of fees to the artist and the applicable benefits to Equity. 

As of the end of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Equity held a total of $7.5M in security for your fees. The vast majority of that is in the form of letters of credit and similar pledges, with only about 25% being actual money held on deposit. Still, that is a lot of production money tied up, and has understandably been a matter of some contention with engagers over the years.

So, why do we do that?

The need to hold security is not a theoretical one. Over the same fiscal year, Equity used those funds to distribute $46,205 in unpaid fees, and a further $101,376 in benefits deducted from artist paycheques, but not sent in to Equity. That's close to $150,000 of your money, for one year alone, that we otherwise would have little chance of collecting, or would be able to collect only at significant expense and trouble.

That's why.

In the grand scheme of all engagers and all productions the need is thankfully rare, but it is unquestionably a chronic one. There are more than a few members out there this past year, and every year, who are grateful that security was held. Speaking from experience, I count myself among them.