What does a none equity contract mean?

  • User Deleted

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    I plan to audition soon for a theatre company but they have stated it will be for a none equity contract. Although they have agreed to pay, they haven't told me what it will be and I don't know what the term 'none equity contract' really means. I am part of equity. Has anyone else had experience of this?

    • 16th Jul 2008
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  • Alan Brent

    Actor

    A non-Equity contract means that they are not going to be paying as much as you should get and probably think that they can pay you if and when they get any money.

    Companies that run under the banner of Non-equity generally have a fear of using Equity contracts because of how its tightness doesn't leave them any excuses for abuse. When I say 'abuse' I mean not paying on time, avoiding paying proper subsistence, working hours and much more.

    A warning: check their insurances for performer protection.

    Also it could mean that they haven't fully booked the theatres/venues they are due to play so can pull out of any they cannot fill with prepaid customers. Then they can give you an 'unpaid rest day' here and there.

    I hate the term 'Non-Equity'. It is so degrading to think that a company can rail against an organisation that has fought over the years to get the rights of performers recognised only for this sort of thing to happen!

    Check any 'non-Equity' contract thoroughly with your agent BEFORE you accept it. Or send it to Equity for them to check for you. It may be that the employer doesn't know that they ARE supplying an Equity-style contract and not even know it! BUT beware of the fact that they state upfornt it is a Non-Equity contract. What are they covering up?

    • 15th Jul 2008
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  • Lee Ravitz

    Actor

    Alan is absolutely right - although you shouldn't be surprised by the offer of a 'non - Equity' contract; they are rife these days throughout the industry.

    It may be that the company concerned are rankly ready to abuse actors' rights, or, if you wish to be more charitable, that they are a company full of good ideas who lack any decent funding.

    In the latter case, they may still be decent people to work for (as opposed to sharks who are out to make as much profit as they can for themselves whilst allowing you to live in poverty) - but basic problems of susbistence etc. will still apply. Sometimes, a company feels the need to be upfront about the notion that they cannot pay actors up to Equity standard, because they realise that it is damaging to the cast members involved, and they must give a prior warning.

    The basic truth, as Alan has said, is that you need to research the company concerned and their set-up carefully, if you are considering taking a role with them. Often, when a company is not paying equity rate, there are expected 'trade - offs', for instance, that you will be offered all - inclusive accomodation, meals or expenses even if the wage is irregular but you are having to travel, or, at the very least, that, in a profit share, you will be allowed time off to work at another job in order to support yourself. If these kinds of agreements are not in place, the 'contract' is definitely not worth taking on, as it will leave you seriously out of pocket.

    If they are offering a formal written contract, then you can certainly get Equity to read it through for you, and detect any loopholes contained in it (they won't offer you a contract, until you have been cast in the production, of course).

    • 15th Jul 2008
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  • Russell Alan White

    Actor

    Be careful. Just been doing a non equity show and after months and months of rehearsals (non paid) They pulled the show after 4 shows.

    • 15th Jul 2008
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  • Alan Brent

    Actor

    QED....

    • 15th Jul 2008
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  • User Deleted

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    Thanks for your replies. The advice has clarified a few things for me. I am happy to work for lower pay if my expenses are covered in order to gain experience. Plus, I genuinely believe I will enjoy the tour. I am young and not tied down to anything so I can afford to work for a little less, as long as I get food and shelter.

    Nevertheless, I am finding that many companies assume actors will work for nothing or long hours for low pay.

    • 15th Jul 2008
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  • User Deleted

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    A Non Equity contract is a contract that has not been negotiated by Equity our trade union. Equity works hard to set the best rates of minimum pay as well as working conditions in all sections of our industry.

    Remember on a Non Equity contracts it is not just the rates of pay which may be less but also you may be working more hours, you will receive no overtime, no limit on driving, have no missed meal allowances, and possibly no holiday pay as well as lose out on a whole host of other benefits that Equity implement in their contracts. These additional benefits do add up to a great deal and are important.

    Also remember if you are working for a company on a Non Equity contracts who are possibly paying you much less for derisory conditions, you are undercutting companies who go to the time and trouble of working on proper Equity contracts. So you could be skewing the market in favour of companies who do not have the best interests of actors at heart, and when you need to earn decent money there may not be any decent companies left for you to work for.

    Obviously there are some genuine nice and good companies who are relatively new and who do not have funding, so they are currently working on non Equity contracts. If you talk to other actors you can soon find out who the nice company's are, so it's always useful to pop along to Equity branch meetings.

    Remember as an Equity member if you are offered a Non Equity contract you can take it to your nearest Equity office and asked them to read through the terms and conditions of your contract so you know what you're missing out on and what you're letting yourself in for.

    Plus Equity will give you help if anything goes wrong whether you are working on an Equity contract or a Non Equity contract. In my experience you are much more likely to need Equity's help when working on Non-Equity contracts.

    So tread carefully, be informed and never be afraid to ask the staff at Equity for help that is what they are there for. All Equity members are entitled to free legal and contractual help and advice.

    Lastly if you visit the members only area of the Equity website and look under "Areas of work" you can read all the various Equity contracts for theatre work.

    Wishing you all the best.

    Cheers

    TRACEY :-)

    • 15th Jul 2008
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  • User Deleted

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    Tracey is absolutely right.

    It's not just about your basic pay - there are a whole host of things that a company is entitled to do/pay under an Equity contract - lots of which you don't realise are important until you DON'T get them. This is probably even more relevant on a touring contract when time is of the essence - an Equity contract takes into consideration touring allowance, travelling time, maximum shows/week, holiday pay etc. all of which is extremely important. They could quite easily say they'll pay you a decent weekly wage but then expect you to pay for travel to places all over the country, do shows in a number of different venues per week without taking into consideration travel time, do ridiculous numbers of shows per week with minimum breaks in between etc - then that weekly wage starts to look a whole lot less appealing. Obviously it is important to get experience but it annoys me when companies who could afford to offer an Equity contract almost 'trick' actors into thinking they're getting an ok deal because their weekly rate of pay seems reasonable and then they take advantage in order to make more of a profit. Equity have fought hard for everything we are entitled to under contracts approved by them and we should to the same by insisting that these are the only contracts we will accept from professional companies who are more than able to offer them and just choose not to as they know people will still accept the work while they save some cash.

    Sorry to be so harsh but this stuff is really important to ensure that actors are not taken advantage of.

    Lindsay

    • 16th Jul 2008
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  • Andrew Lawden

    Actor

    it basically means your arse isn't covered on all levels;- pay , insurance, liability, health, legal ...nothing !

    • 16th Jul 2008
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  • Blake J Askew

    Actor

    And shall we include high profile Fringe theatre companies wh have been going for over twnty years or so, and still dont pay the actors?

    There is one that does weekly rehearsals of a satire type show that still doesnt pay after being going for eons... and one in the South Est of Lonodn that doesnt pay either.

    This is disgraceful considering actors have to borrow money from parents to do these shows. equity should step in.

    • 16th Jul 2008
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  • Erin Geraghty

    Actor

    When I started in the business, Equity was a closed shop and all theatre contracts were Equity ones, (apart from fringe). Nowadays, more and more companies are using their own or no contracts. Whilst it is always preferable to have an Equity contract, it is unreasonable to turn down others just because they are not using one. I have worked for many very good professional companies who pay decent rates and cover all the expected things such as touring costs. No, most of these do not have the same benefits as one with an Equity contracts would have but in today's climate and legal system, without a closed shop, it's the way it is! In these cases, get everything in writing, and get your agent and /or Equity to check it.

    Bill Kenwright,Aberystywth Arts Centre, some of the small scale touring companies and many other respectable companies use their own contracts, and I, for one, would rather be working for them than not at all. The days of only using an Equity contract have, sadly, GONE!

    • 16th Jul 2008
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  • Erin Geraghty

    Actor

    OOPS! I think Kenwright does use Equity ones now. But many other companies do not.

    • 16th Jul 2008
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  • User Deleted

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    I wouldn't be so sure that the days of the Equity contract have gone as we have some very dedicated Equity members working behind the scenes to improve things for us all. Last year with a huge amount of help and drive from ordinary Equity members who are on the Equity's Small Scale Touring Committee now renamed the Independent Theatre Arts Committee a new and much more flexible ITC Equity contract was launched.

    Slowly employers who both care about actors and the quality of their work are being persuaded to move into using the new ITC Equity contract. As individual actors who've worked for good companies, which are currently not using this contract we can all play our little part by inform Equity who these companies are and get the staff at Equity and the ITC to encourage all the good employers to use this new revised ITC Equity contract.

    Life is always changing and although knowing who to work for was much simpler when Equity was a close shop. Now we have the World Wide Web with discussion forums like this green room, and Google groups and face book, lots of quick, easy and inexpensive forms of communication. Not to mention new Equity branches springing up all round the country. We can now talk to each other and use our collective pressure to change things for the better. Please don't let us be apathetic.

    Below I have put an article from the spring 2007 Equity magazine.

    Cheers

    TRACEY

    ------------------------------------

    SMALL SCALE THEATRE REVIEW

    Agreement revisions first since seventies

    EQUITY HAS COMPLETED DISCUSSIONS WITH the Independent Theatre Council (ITC) to significantly update the Small Scale Theatre Agreement for the first time since the seventies. The current deal has increasingly fallen into disuse - only 70 of the ITC's 600 or so members actually use the contract and both Equity and the ITC are keen to develop a more flexible agreement that can be used by small scale theatre across the country.

    Equity recognises that the current deal is overly complex and too prescriptive in an area where many companies are small and non-building based. However, Equity will be negotiating for a £350 per week minimum wage for performers and a maximum working week of 35 hours in theatre.

    "Our aim is to deliver a significant simplification of the present agreement with the aim of making it easier and, therefore, more attractive for small companies to actually use the contract," said Equity Assistant General Secretary Stephen Spence. "At the same time, we want to see a fair wage for all our members."

    • 16th Jul 2008
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