FIA LA - News details

03.08.2007

FIA-LA Meeting in Caracas

The last FIA-La meeting took place in Caracas, Venezuela, from August 3 to 5, 2007, pulling together representatives from performer unions in most of the countries in Central and South America. It focused on the health and social security of performers working in theatre, film and television production. Due to their precarious status and to the lack of adequate policies, an overwhelming majority of professional performers in the region have no access to decent and affordable health care. Many of them are “self-employed”, which denies them access to public benefits and requires them to sign up to private insurances, which they rarely do. Most of them end up doing something else for a living to have minimum security.

Representatives introduced the many initiatives that their respective unions are taking to offset this lack of protection. Some have focused on prevention, running safety campaigns across the country to raise the awareness of performers about health-related issues and HIV. Inadequate working conditions in live performance were often referred to – especially in circus. In Brazil the mortality rate among circus artists is very high and artists often have to work in marginal and violent suburban areas. A few unions have raised sponsorship from private companies to reduce the cost of private social security schemes – or have signed conventions with medical practitioners to offer cheaper health services to their members.

Many others are actively campaigning to ensure that performers can be fully recognized as “workers”, and are seeking inspiration from special social security regimes (e.g. those benefiting fishermen) to draft innovative proposals for their policy makers to consider. Generally speaking, in fact, self-employed status in Latin America inevitably deprives performers of the protection of collective agreements, meaning they cannot take advantage of any possible advancement that the union may be able to reach with the employers.

Very few performer unions in Latin America have been able to set up retirement funds, to which employers contribute. When this is the case, however, the underlying agreements are hard to enforce. Performers are often made to sign two contracts for the same job, only one of which – with a much smaller fee – is filed with the union. One or two unions have successfully set up their own health care system, to which the members contribute at a bargain rate.

FIA-La unions decided to work on a groundbreaking regional agreement that would open up some of the best union friendly health treatments in their country to their respective members, with no discrimination.

The next meeting of the FIA-La group will be in Marrakech, in October 2008 – on the occasion of the 19th FIA World Congress.