Equity’s general secretary, Paul Fleming, said the prolonged disruption to UK film and television production is “necessary” to aid UK unions’ own negotiations with studios and producers.

“What we’re seeing is that the longer the dispute goes on, the deeper it will go, the more intractable it will become, and the more the UK industry will go cold,” Fleming explained. “That is necessary to ensure that we are in the best possible position to win, as big as SAG-AFTRA, with our own negotiations in the coming months.”

On Monday night (August 21), he spoke on a webinar that brought together members of the UK’s Bectu (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre) union and Equity members with SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland to provide an update on the US actors’ strike, which is having a significant impact on UK production.

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Fleming cautioned that if negotiations with PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television) over wages, the usage of artificial intelligence (AI), and other problems comparable to those over which US actors are striking are not successful, a strike in the UK “may well” happen within the next 12 months.

“Those agreements are just as strong as SAG-AFTRA contracts.” And we need to see that any contract that SAG-AFTRA gets is reflected in the quality of our terms or conditions, because that puts pressure on us,” Fleming said. “Our position and our own bargaining, which will begin towards the end of this year or the beginning of next year, has essentially hardened as a result of the position of global producers, and our desire and need to win has increased as a result.”

“This implies that there may be ongoing disruption as time passes.” There is a real incentive for the AMPTP (Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers) and British producers, British arms of American producers, and global producers to exert more pressure so that industrial unrest does not spread this side of the Atlantic through our negotiations.”

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Fleming addressed the safeguards put in place to prevent UK actors from being utilized as a “workaround” to the SAG-AFTRA strike.

“What we will not tolerate is recasting jobs previously offered to American artists with British artists, even if they are covered by our agreements.” And we’re policing that very, very aggressively,” Fleming said.

“We are prepared, and it is entirely possible that we will enter into our own individual trade disputes with individual productions where we believe they are attempting to avoid the United States’ industrial action.”

Fleming emphasized that this militancy will not result in an influx of labor, and that Equity and Bectu will constantly supervise productions that adjust schedules to meet the strikes.

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“We’ve already had a few instances where we’ve seen our members being asked to cover for work that may have been shot elsewhere or may very well have been an American artist’s job,” he said.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure that this has no effect, if any, on people’s health and safety at work.” Particularly when under pressure to reach unrealistic timelines. That is our very clear stand with our members.”

“We can tell you’re in pain.”
SAG-AFTRA’s Crabtree-Ireland expressed gratitude for the UK’s solidarity while acknowledged the financial difficulties encountered by crew members working on US productions in the UK.

“I’d like to acknowledge that the writers’ strike, as well as our strike, have had significant economic consequences for people.” “And I know that includes crew members and people who aren’t specifically part of these units that are on strike, but whose work opportunities and livelihoods have been impacted,” he told the more than 500 Equity and Bectu members attending the webinar. “And I just want to make sure you all know that we see our members suffering, and we know your members and others in this industry are suffering as well.”

“However, we want to emphasize that the only reason these strikes are taking place is because these companies refused to reach a fair and respectful agreement with our members.” And you know there was no need for a strike to be declared.”


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