The 22nd FIA Congress – virtual but no less real!

FIA Executive Committee News Resolutions and Statements

Exceptionally, and for the first time in its history, the 22nd FIA Congress was held exclusively in virtual mode, from 4 to 7 May 2021, in a global context still strongly disrupted by the pandemic and the restrictions taken by governments to curb the spread of the COVID virus. These measures, whose socio-economic impact is extremely worrying, have had a strong impact on the cultural production sector and, to a greater extent, live performance. With a record participation rate, despite the constraints of having nearly 160 delegates spread over 20 different time zones, this Congress will have renewed both FIA’s political mandate and the composition of its Executive Committee.

After 9 consecutive years of skillful leadership of our federation, Ferne Downey stepped down to a standing ovation. During her two consecutive mandates, Ferne has contributed greatly to the consolidation of our federation, both financially and politically: she has notably driven the ratification process of the WIPO Beijing Treaty, which finally entered into force in record time on 20 April 2020, and, as a committed human rights activist, she has worked tirelessly to make inclusion, diversity and equality a priority for FIA action and to root these values more strongly than ever before within our federation. As a tireless spokesperson for performers, she has been able to articulate their concerns and aspirations to governments around the world, repeatedly reminding them of the role of culture in our societies and the importance of acknowledging a fair and rewarding legal status to all artists, as the driving force behind it. In leaving FIA, Ferne also concluded an ambitious reform process, aimed at democratising a 20-year-old voting system and thus making FIA’s voice more representative. In bidding farewell to all delegates, Ferne paid a poignant tribute to FIA and to all the union leaders who contributed, and continue to contribute with their determination, to making our federation a strong voice for performers for nearly 70 years.

In gratefully dismissing Ferne, FIA’s 22nd Congress elected Gabrielle Carteris, President of SAG-AFTRA, to take over and lead the federation for the next four years. The fourth woman to be elected to this position, three of them continuously and consecutively since 2008, Gabrielle is the first US trade union leader to hold this office in the history of the FIA. Honoured by the trust placed in her by delegates from 70 trade union organisations from 51 countries around the world, Gabrielle announced her determination to unite and work to promote solidarity and workers’ rights across borders. Referring to the live performance sector, which has been particularly affected by the pandemic, but also to audiovisual and digital production, she stressed the importance of rebuilding a thriving industry and of seeing this exit from the crisis as an opportunity to build new alliances to better address the impact of the pandemic, as well as the challenges of exploiting the work and image of artists through new technological means. "We will stand together until the end, united in the pursuit of one goal" she said "I see you, I hear you and I support you because I am you".

Gabrielle Carteris thus becomes the 12th President of FIA. Surrounded by six other elected officials, including Alicia Dogliotti (SUA, Uruguay), Paul Fleming (Equity), Denys Fouqueray (SFA, France), Vladimir Kamen (CCCWU, Russia), Marie Kelly (ACTRA, Canada) and Simon Norrthon (SoF, Sweden), she now leads a strong and experienced new Presidium. In addition to the home countries of these Presidium members, eight other countries have joined the new FIA Executive Committee, namely Argentina, Croatia, Denmark, India, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand and Turkey.

A large part of the FIA Congress, reduced to its simplest essence in order to fully achieve its objectives in virtual mode, focused on the presentation, discussion and adoption of motions setting out the main lines of action and priorities for the federation over the next four years.

A total of 21 motions were unanimously approved, plus two emergency motions – respectively in favour of artistic and trade union freedom against the background of renewed repression in Colombia, and in favour of a limited and temporary waiver of the intellectual property protections established by the WTO under the TRIPS Agreement to accelerate the fight against the COVID pandemic.

A significant part of the regular motions at the 22nd FIA Congress were of course inspired by the global health crisis and the impact of the containment measures taken in most countries of the world to address it. Although often necessary, these measures have had a disproportionate impact on our industry – affecting the conditions of hundreds of thousands of performers, who have lost their income overnight. With no hope of returning to work immediately, many were left without any social protection due to their self-employed status. Addressing the disparities in treatment between “self-employed” workers and employees in terms of access to the most basic social rights and trade union freedoms has therefore become a real priority for FIA – as part of its advocacy for the status of the artist. Equally important is the encouragement of States to release significant means to support the arts and entertainment sector and thus enable it to bounce back from the crisis as soon as possible. Other motions approved by the 22nd FIA Congress aim to strengthen inter-union cooperation and solidarity in order to better support artists in international productions and also to promote best practices in favour of artists hired locally by these productions. Beyond the pandemic, the confrontation with global warming will lead FIA to support and promote more environmentally friendly practices in a sector that is still too energy-intensive in many respects. Finally, as part of its efforts to combat all forms of abuse and harassment, FIA will address the casting and co-ordination of intimate scenes, in order to promote ethical and humane practices and thus contribute to safer working conditions. The commitment against discrimination in employment on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic characteristics, religion, disability, belief, political opinion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, among others, is also in line with this.

Despite its abbreviated and virtual nature, the 22nd FIA Congress was a unifying and inspiring moment. The level of participation, the quality of the exchanges and the motions adopted by the delegates reflected our commitment to performers around the world and the challenges they face today. We continue to fight this militant battle with passion, with pride and with hope. Each new Congress is a new beginning for us all. An opportunity to remind ourselves that every day we can go further together and that every victory, no matter how small, is important. As our new President has said so well, "together we can, we will and we must". It is with this spirit that we once again set sail to begin our new mandate with enthusiasm.

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