Monday, June 17, 2013

Advisory Committee Update #3

At the May meeting, Council added an Atlantic Advisory (Robert Seale, liaison), responsible for linking up with the Atlantic membership. Mandate development for a Diversity Committee is underway, and will be complete for June. I'll post details here when that is done, and info for all the advisories is available at EQUITYONLINEMembers who expressed an interest in participating in the new advisories will be contacted regarding involvement. 

In addition, Council made some determinations on the following suggestions:

Senior Artists – Equity took part in the Senior Artist Research Project, concluding in 2010, and Council will be reviewing those results to determine how to best put them to use at the committee level. We'll be coming back to this in June.

CTA Level 2 Monitoring - Staff will be preparing a comprehensive engagement report at the end of the summer, incorporating contract data and patterns observed to that point. Council has deferred decision on a committee until that report comes in and we have more information.

At this point, Council has completed most of its work on the advisory committees for the term. As previously noted, there are a couple to be finalized in the next month or so, and some proposals are slated to come forward again in October for review. Of the remaining topics, all represented less than 1% of the submissions, and will be addressed as discussion topics throughout the term, rather than as committees.

We received over 600 submissions, on a huge range of topics, and all were very illuminating. Even those that did not result in a committee will be used to inform Council's discussions going forward, and quite a few will be of use to staff in determining topics for upcoming negotiations, and improving service. 

Council's job is to act as an informed agent of the membership, and thanks to your input, we are able to do the job that much better.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Did you know? - Concessions

If you have been a member of Equity for any appreciable period of time, you have probably heard mention of the term "concession" in relation to a contract. You may even have been consulted by staff on whether or not a concession should be granted for a particular project. However, few members understand the concession process as a whole – how it operates outside the scope of an individual production.

It all starts with negotiation…

Equity and member representatives sits down with an engager (or engager group, such as PACT) and negotiate terms for the hiring of Equity members, based on member input. What results are a set of terms that are mutually agreed-upon. That is important to understand, because it means that both parties have a binding agreement that the terms represent a workable and fair approach to engagement. Promulgated (non-negotiated) agreements are then derived from these negotiated agreements, again in consultation with the membership, and tailored to specific types and scales of theatrical production.

So, if engagement terms have already been agreed to, why are concessions even necessary? Good question.

The reality is, of course, that live performance is not something that fits within neat boxes in every conceivable circumstance. The agreement terms have been constructed so that the vast majority do, however we know that unusual situations will occur from time to time. Concessions are intended to deal gracefully with those circumstances when the agreed-upon terms fail to do so. Each year, almost exactly 10% of productions receive a concession on some aspect of the contract.

For example, it may be something peculiar to a show (such as the need to engage a large number of non-professional performers), something peculiar to a tour (a limited flight or ferry schedule), something peculiar to a venue (a small, local company resident in an overlarge theatre), etc. In some of these cases, it might be completely impossible to fully comply with a scale agreement. In others, strict compliance might turn out to be an undue financial burden on the theatre. 

It is for these and similar situations that concessions are intended – they allow the engager and Equity to come to a one-time arrangement to alter an agreement to suit the circumstances. In the case of negotiated agreements, the standard of "special circumstances" is quite high, as the engager is expected to live up to the terms it agreed to in negotiation. Concessions are not meant to allow deviation from standard terms just because an engager would rather not stick to their agreement.

Although staff is responsible for reviewing and approving applications for concessions, Council has established firm rules governing how this is done. These may be found in EL-11 of our policy document, but in summary they are: 
  • Staff cannot grant a concession that would be inconsistent with the long-term Ends of Equity. 
  • Staff cannot grant a concession without ensuring that a majority of the affected members (where known) are in agreement with the change. Where the affected members are not yet confirmed by contract, they must be informed of the concession in a rider at the time of contracting. 
  • Staff cannot grant a concession except where it would alleviate a legitimate financial hardship to the engager, or where the engager offers at least an equal benefit ("quid pro quo") in exchange. 
  • Staff cannot grant concessions that would compromise the health and safety of members. 
  • In making a determination to grant a concession, staff must consult with knowledgeable members in the discipline or region affected. 
So… If you are already contracted on a production that has become the subject of a concession request, you will be consulted. Member input is not the only thing that decides the matter, but agreement by the affected artists is mandatory. Where no one has yet been engaged, or where staff believe that the matter would benefit from some bigger picture input as well, staff will also consult with a small panel of knowledgeable members from the affected region or discipline. Sometimes, the nature of the concession is such that it can only be properly decided by the artists who will be under contract; in these cases, staff will ask the engager to wait until hiring is complete before submitting the request.

Most concessions are approved upon initial review and consultation with the engager, the financial hardship or benefit quid pro quo being clearly evident. In some cases, staff will go back to the engager and request an alternative arrangement that is more tenable, and the concession will be approved on that basis. All in all, roughly 90% of concessions requests are granted. The remainder are denied because the request has not met one or more of Council's policy criteria, or because the affected members were not in majority agreement.

So, that is the concession process in a (rather large) nutshell. Along with the strength of written terms of engagement comes the challenge of making them work for an infinite variety of theatrical endeavours. By permitting reasonable accommodation in our agreements, we are able to incorporate important flexibility while preserving the benefits and protections members have asked us to put in place.