HOSPITALS and schools are putting on live acts that pay performers peanuts, Equity’s conference heard yesterday.
Workers in the sector said that touring companies frequently pay below union minimums and can even pay below the minimum wage. And Tory funding cuts from both Whitehall and local councils have seen a rise in “co-productions” between companies, with some bosses reportedly using such set-ups to drive down pay and conditions.
One panto actor was paid just £500 for four weeks’ touring work, reported Central England delegate David Edgar, who said such troupes were often being commissioned by public-sector organisations. And an improvisation group member was asked to lead a workshop in an NHS hospital for expenses only, he said.
“The end customer was the taxpayer, so it should be expected that their customers are paying their employees appropriately,” he said.
He called on the union to launch a campaign “finding and engaging with the holders of the purse strings” to raise awareness of companies that are bad employers.
Union council member Xander Black said: “There are sadly more bad companies than good companies.”
Former Emmerdale star Jean Rogers called for Equity to raise the matter with teaching unions. She said actors were seeing “more and more of these adverts for going into schools for tuppence-ha’penny.”
Equity will now work to encourage bookers of touring shows both in both the public and private sectors to insist that companies employ actors on union contracts.
The union also resolved to step up informing members about their employment rights after concerns were raised that theatrical companies are failing to meet legal requirements on holiday pay.
Live performers also said they were frequently expected to prepare unreasonable amounts of material ahead of auditions.
West End deputies’ delegate Rebecca Louis told the conference that one member had been made to practise “seven sides and four songs” before only being asked to perform one musical number at the audition.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she told the conference.