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Equity posts SAGAFTRA solidarity message, offers legal advice to its members

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UK creative workers union Equity has posted a message of solidarity with SAG-AFTRA as it warned its own members about the legalities of joining the US actors Guild strike in the UK.

The union’s lawyers have advised that while the US strike scheduled to start on Friday is legal in the US it is not legal in the UK.

Equity wrote: “You will see that the primary legal problem is this: We have been advised by SAG-AFTRA that its strike is lawful according to United States law but we have been advised by our UK lawyers that it is not lawful under United Kingdom law.

“Consequently, a performer joining the strike (or refusing to cross a picket line) in the UK will have no protection against being dismissed or sued for breach of contract by the producer or the engager.

“Likewise, if Equity encourages anyone to join the strike or not cross a picket line, Equity itself will be acting unlawfully and hence liable for damages or an injunction. What follows is based on that advice from SAG-AFTRA and our lawyers.”

The advisory came as SAG-AFTRA leadership announced their strike would start at midnight on Thursday after contract talks with Hollywood studios and streamers ended without resolution.

Equity members who do not belong to SAG-AFTRA and are working in the UK on an Equity contract for a US producer where some of their colleagues may be working under SAG-AFTRA agreements are advised to continue working and should not be prevented from doing so by a SAG-AFTRA picket. Equity lawyers have stated that continuing to be employed should not affect Equity members’ future rights to join SAG-AFTRA. SAG-AFTRA cannot discredit performers who continue to perform under UK law.

Equity’s message in solidarity appears below:

Statement from the General Secretary of Equity, Paul W Fleming

“SAG-AFTRA is Equity’s sister union representing performers on screen in the United States. They are currently in talks with the AMPTP – the engagers’ association for film and television producers in the United States. SAG-AFTRA voted their members earlier this year to gain authorisation for a strike action, if necessary, to achieve a fair settlement in these negotiations. Today, SAG-AFTRA’s Board has taken the brave step of authorising a strike.

“SAG-AFTRA’s claim to the producers contains many critical elements for performers on their agreements. The claim is based on long-standing, shared struggles for our unions. These include issues like pay and residuals. SAG-AFTRA is also bravely confronting existential questions about Artificial Intelligence, virtual auditions, and self-tapes. Securing fairness in pay, terms, and conditions is critical whether they be with traditional producers, or new global streamers, and with new modes of making and distributing work to a global audience.

“Equity stands full square behind our sister union in their claim, and the action their Board have agreed to take. Equity is also facing bullish engagers who are trying to undermine its collectively negotiated agreements. “We tell the AMPTP, and their members, that they must move quickly and significantly to meet the reasonable demands of SAG-AFTRA members. The members of our unions, and all entertainment unions across the globe, create the vast wealth within our industry – it is right and just that they have decent, modern pay and conditions.

“Equity has been in constant contact with our sister union throughout the negotiations at every level – including the President and General Secretary attending in person in Los Angeles earlier this month. We will continue to work closely and collaboratively on advice for artists working in the United Kingdom as the situation develops.

“Industrial relations legislation in the United Kingdom is draconian, and often viewed as the most restrictive in the Western world. The pernicious and convoluted hurdles that all unions face in the United Kingdom is a national shame and needs urgent reform. The regrettable consequence of this framework is that what artists working in the United Kingdom – whether SAG-AFTRA and/or Equity members (or both) – can do, may be different from their comrades in the United States and other parts of the world.

“Equity is fighting alongside the rest of the trade union movement in the UK to reform our illiberal industrial relations framework in parliament, in the courts, and on the streets.

“Detailed advice for artists working in the UK who are Equity and/or SAG-AFTRA members is set out below. Equity will also be holding rallies, protests and demonstrations in the next few weeks to show solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and their fight. To all workers, good art. To all people: Equity.

“And to SAG-AFTRA: Victory.”

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