FIA 21st Congress – Panels reports


As at past congresses, some of the key concerns of FIA were addressed through panel discussions over the three days of Congress.

Panel #1 – Diversity and Inclusion

Moderator: Simon Burke

Panellists: Duncan Crabtree-Ireland; Lisa Crazy; Jack Devnarain; Katja Holm; Arden Ryshpan

The panel on diversity and inclusion, which was also the overall theme of FIA 21st Congress, started with the presentation by Duncan Crabtree Ireland, SAG-AFTRA, of the results of the FIA Survey on LGBT Equality. The survey results show that discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people is still a reality in the entertainment industry. Indeed, despite the general assumption that our industry is a tolerant one, discriminatory practices – especially during casting process – still happen. In order to justify them, producers often reference their right to artistic freedom. Several panellists highlighted the issue that many people – even inside the unions – consider that there is no major problem regarding LGBT performers. That is why awareness needs to be raised about this issue. Arden Ryshpan presented the results of the CAEA census, which confirm that LGBT performers – but also ethnically diverse and disabled performers – often believe that their ability to work is diminished. She told the delegates about the long fight conducted by CAEA to address non-discrimination in the union’s collective agreements. Jack Devnarain, SAGA, stated that the LGBT issue is difficult to tackle in Africa as many African countries still criminalise homosexuality. Lisa Crazy, first transgender panellist in the history of FIA, highlighted the challenges encountered by transgender performers and the role that unions can play in supporting them.

Panel #2 – The WIPO Beijing Treaty and the On-Going Ratification Challenge

Moderator: Dominick Luquer

Panellists: Victor Drummond; Andrea Gutierrez; Bjorn Hoberg-Petersen; Abel Martin; David White

The second panel of the Congress dealt with the WIPO Beijing Treaty and its ratification process. Dominick Luquer reminded the Congress of the major victory in 2012 and the long road since then to the 30 ratifications needed for the implementation of the treaty. He highlighted the need for pedagogy and patience in this slow process. Andrea Gutierrez, SIDARTE, talked about the successful Chilean experience and the need to explain to performers the consequences the treaty could have on their daily lives in order to win their support. She also explained, together with Abel Martin, AISGE, the advantage of the partnership with the CMOs. David White emphasized the importance to make people – and decision-makers – understand that this treaty means that performers will make a better living from their work, but also that the entire economy will benefit from it. All panellists agreed on the fact that this treaty was a great opportunity to enforce much-needed rights for performers and all stressed the need to engage performers in this fight.

Panel #3 – Employment Status and Effective Exercise of Core Labour Rights

Moderator: Dearbhal Murphy

Panellists: Caspar de Kiefte; Oliver Liang, Benoît Machuel; Karan O’Loughlin, Alejandra Rincon

The third panel of the Congress was focused on labour issues, tackling in particular the “atypical” forms of work in the sector and the challenges that they throw up. Both Karan O’Loughlin and Caspar de Kiefte shared the experience of their unions in countering the problematic application of European competition rules to established collective bargaining relationships on behalf of self-employed workers, including legal and advocacy measures. Alejandra Rincon shared the experience of the Argentinian union in pushing for, and achieving, a vital law on behalf of artists: recognising their status as workers, with access to labour rights. It is a very helpful framework, but there is still work to be done to achieve its full application. Oliver Liang highlighted the work of the ILO in this area and the outlook for the future. He also recalled the importance of using the protections and recourse offered by the ILO. Finally, Benoît Machuel closed the panel with some inspiring examples from FIM, where the decision to make use of the ILO mechanisms in defence of member unions delivered real results and changed political will in a number of specific national cases. Dearbhal Murphy also briefly outlined the ongoing work at European level, arising from the two year FIA-led project on atypical work.

Panel #4 – Tackling Double Standards for Performers in International Production

Moderator: Steve Waddell

Panellists: Amit Behl; Gabrielle Carteris; Carlynn De Waal-Smit; Birna Hafstein; Johannes Studinger

Panel #4 entitled “Tackling double standards for performers in international production” addressed the issues of international co-productions and the widely varying standards and conditions often applied to performers from different countries in such productions. The panel composed of speakers from different countries revealed the disparity of situations in the world regarding working conditions and revenues. Amit Behl, CINTAA, talked about the situation in India, especially in Mumbai, where an increasing number of movies and TV shows are being produced. He explained that, like in South Africa, local and foreigner performers are being treated very differently. The panellists mentioned The Hobbit case and the international mobilisation that followed. This case and many others illustrate the fact that fighting double standards in international productions in not easy. It is vital that performers unions communicate with each other. They should collect data and identify the companies that practice double standards. The entertainment industry is a global industry with global issues; the response should then be global.

Panel #5 – Building the Capacity of Performers’ Unions

Moderator: Mikael Waldorff

Panellists: Messaoud Bouhcine; Vladimir Kamen; Katalin Raksi; Stephen Spence

The final panel of FIA’s 21st Congress tackled the issues of organising and union growth. As Mikael Waldorff recalled, FIA has a long tradition of capacity building projects. Many countries – in the former Soviet Union, in Africa and in Latin America – have benefited from them over the years. Both Katalin Ráksi from SDS, and Vladimir Kamen from CCCWU, commented on their experiences after the Iron Curtain came down. In both Hungary and Russia, the political transition had a major impact on the unions that had to adapt to the new context. In Russia, the union still face a real issue with audiovisual performers that do not engage in the union. Messaoud Bouhcine from SMPT, and Stephen Spence from Equity UK, presented the ongoing twinning agreements between SMPT and SFA in Morocco and Equity UK and GAG in Ghana. Both projects generated enthusiasm in both of the partnership countries. The project in Morocco was particularly successful as the country adopted a new law on the social and legal status of artists and is working on a law on private copying. The ability to organise is one of the biggest challenges for unions. As Karan O’Loughlin said “if a union is not growing, it is slowly dying”. Several panellists emphasised the significance of the involvement of young performers and the role that the stars can play in union organising.

Photo credits: Rodrigo Ono

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