Equity Annual Representative Conference 2019 - highlights

On the weekend of May 18-20, 2019, several hundred members of Equity converged on Belfast for the Annual Representative Conference to discuss union issues and decide policy for the coming year. Although a more complete report of the overall conference and the 57 motions presented (including two emergency motions, and three motions that were remitted) is available through the union, a few topics will be of particular interest to AAUK members.

THREAT FROM HMRC

In her speech to the ARC, Equity’s General Secretary Christine Payne warned members of a new threat on the horizon from the Inland Revenue. Actors hold a hard-won tax status, whereby we are self-employed for tax purposes but defined as workers for national insurance, reflecting our particular way of working. In other words, while we do not work for one specific person or company all the time, when we do work, we are told what to do by someone else and often must do it at a specific place and time, e.g. filming an ad campaign or acting in a play. However, this special status has long been eyed with suspicion by HMRC, and it is moving to revise its guidelines in what one accountant has called “a concerted campaign” against the entertainment industry. If this happens, it could force production companies, theaters, and other organizations to move actors to PAYE, even if they are only being used for a few days here or there. This would vastly increase costs to those companies, as employees incur payments that self-employed workers do not, which could lead to fewer jobs. Also of particular concern is the situation of those performers who have made themselves limited companies – usually on the advice of tax professionals - who are now at risk of having PAYE and national insurance contributions deducted at source, along with unpaid tax and national insurance contributions for previous years. This has already happened to a group of high profile actors who are now being charged for non-payment of Class 1 national insurance for years past, when they believed themselves to be self-employed. The sums being demanded in repayment are astronomical.

The union has sworn to fight this tooth and nail, but all members are advised to seek advice from tax professionals, especially if they are considering turning into a limited company for tax purposes.

For further information, see the following article: https://www.equity.org.uk/news/2019/april/hmrc-is-ruthlessly-targeting-p...

BREXIT

Several motions were carried overwhelmingly asking that Equity assist members through Brexit by appealing to government. These included: supporting the maintenance of the Common Travel Area among the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man; safeguarding the rights of resident EU nationals; supporting the call for a hard copy document for EU nationals holding Settled Status; working with the EU to safeguard the rights of UK entertainment professionals to take up short-term contracts in the EU; and working closely with Irish Equity-SIPTU to promote cross-border cooperation.

With the motions binding on Council, they all become policy, and will give support to Equity’s organisers in their dealings with the government.

EVERYTHING ELSE

With three packed days of discussion and debate, there is no room here to cover everything that came up at conference. Other highlights included: support for the EU Copyright Directive, which should limit the ability of big tech companies to earn huge amounts of money from content generated by other people at their expense; continued equality and diversity monitoring; remodeling collective agreements in recorded media to take into account the new streaming and SVOD services; campaigning for BBC radio drama; clarification of GDPR in relation to union communications; promoting inclusion of the arts in the national curriculum; supporting casting in the regions; and many, many more. For more information and a more detailed report, please log into www.equity.org.uk.

ELECTIONS

One final note: elections will soon be taking place for Equity’s industrial and specialist committees. These are the groups that negotiate Equity’s agreements and make decisions on your behalf that affect all aspects of your working life, so when that ballot comes through your mailbox make sure you use your vote!