Empowering performer unions in Africa

AfroFIA FIA News Projects

FIA is successfully drawing a three-year programme in targeted African countries to a close. With a special focus on South Africa, Morocco and Ghana, the project – funded by Union To Union, the Swedish Trade Union agency for decent work, democracy and sustainable development – supported one-to-one capacity building partnerships between some of FIA’s most experienced unions and the unions in these target countries, drawn together by commonalities and a strong commitment to international solidarity. The results have been so encouraging that a follow-up to this project – for a further five-year period – is now being envisaged.

Twinning the Moroccan performers’ union with its French equivalent made it possible to foster the adoption of a proper legal framework for collective bargaining and social dialogue in the audiovisual sector to promote professional work, fundamental social rights and trade union representation. Gender equality was mainstreamed through the organisation and the Moroccan union representing arts and entertainment workers union has taken positive steps to boost the number of women among its leadership. After a substantial structural review, it is now empowered to engage in negotiations with the government and executive producers’ bodies over minimum terms and conditions in the film and audiovisual industry. The union is poised to represent the largest number of professional card-holding members in the country, and has become an indisputable and trusted voice for workers in the industry.

In Ghana, the project delivered a dramatic increase in union membership, a first-ever memorandum of Understanding between the Ghana Actors’ Guild and the Film Producers’ Association of Ghana with minimum work standards for performers in the film industry and a modern digital database to optimize resource management. Union branches were opened in almost all regions in the country and initial steps taken to gradually bring union dues up to a more sustainable level. Women were strongly empowered to participate and have taken, since the beginning of the project, a much more outspoken stance in running the guild’s business. Many female performers now lead the guild’s branches, driving forth a substantial equality agenda. As often happens, GAG’s increased clout also spawned a healthy membership drive towards further openness, transparency and accountability. This is presently dealt with through a mediation process that is expected to deliver a new leadership at the end of April 2017, with a solid remit to organise further.

In South Africa, a country drawing in much international production, regular counselling has enabled the South African Guild of Actors to position itself more strategically within the industrial landscape and reach a better understanding as to how the status of professional performers in the country could be improved. Standard contracts with engagers, either in film, television or commercials, were thoroughly compared with international standards with a view to delivering new benefits for the members. Diversity and equality were also addressed and a first-ever survey of LGBT performers launched successfully in the country, with a view to measuring the importance of work discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the film and television industry. Sexual harassment was also openly confronted and union best practices looked into to challenge misconduct at the workplace. The project offered precious guidance to SAGA also with respect to dubbing standards, contracts for TV commercials and inclusive casting practices – all of which is invaluable to build a more coherent union representation among performers in the country.

Intellectual property is essential to performers, as it enables them to derive additional income from the exploitation of their work, including on digital media, and protect their reputation. For this reason, a consistent part of the FIA project was also about economic and moral rights, collective management and the implementation of the 2012 WIPO Beijing Treaty for the protection of audiovisual performances. As a result, performers shall be better represented on the Board of a restructured Copyright Office in Morocco, which is entrusted to administer private copying levies, whilst copyright review in South Africa has been made to look into how the protection of audiovisual performers can be made more effective.    

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