Unions joining together to fight for equal rights on film sets

Members of Irish Equity and Equity (UK) have joined forces to call for equal treatment for performers working on international co-productions in Ireland.

Although often in receipt of subsidies under the Section 481 Film Tax Credit, international production companies apply lesser terms and conditions to Ireland-based performers. 

When working on the same film or TV production, UK performers benefit from standard Equity (UK) union contracts that entitle them to receive payment for royalties, residuals and repeats. Their Irish colleagues are on non-union contracts without these benefits.

According to the unions, many production companies in the Republic of Ireland offer buy-outs to actors who then lose appropriate royalties and protection for their performances, while their employers enjoy both government tax breaks and licence fee revenues.

The unions’ call came following a “historic” first meeting, at which members from both unions insisted that film productions in Ireland must ensure equal and fair terms and conditions for all professional performers through collective bargaining and agreement with union representatives.

Union members also agreed to mobilise their fellow actors to stop unfair practices and ensure equitable treatment. The unions will now work together to recognise the value of Irish, UK and international talent and the contribution they make to the global film and TV industry, by seeing that all performers are engaged on decent trade union contracts.

“We are very pleased to have, for the first time, brought together Irish Equity and Equity members in the UK and Northern Ireland to discuss a critical issue about film and TV production rights on the island of Ireland,” said Paul Fleming, General Secretary at Equity (UK).

“We want to continue to work with Irish equity and members of both unions to showcase how important it is that the terms and conditions are equitable for those working in film and TV all over Ireland, to harmonise our expectations of fair treatment and ensure a good deal from producers.”

Gerry O’Brien, president of Irish Equity, added: “Both unions have been compromised by the dominant position exercised by producers in imposing lesser terms and conditions in their agreements on Irish-based performers in the Republic of Ireland. At the point of production, in both television series and films, the minimum terms and conditions for the engagement of performers can favour non-resident performers over local hire. 

“Most crucially, the assignment of performers’ rights, which are protected in legislation, fall far below the international norm. It is these rights which produce ‘residual payments’ for performers.”