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Celebrating diversity in all its colours at the FIA 21st World Congress

Close to 150 trade union delegates flocked from over 50 countries around the world to the bustling city of São Paulo to take part in the 21st World Congress of the International Federation of Actors, hosted by FIA affiliate SATED/SP, the union representing performers and technicians in this Brazilian metropolis. It is the second time in the history of the federation that a Congress is held in the Latin American continent. A truly cosmopolitan, melting-pot of a city and home to some of the largest diasporas in the world, São Paulo was the perfect place to celebrate diversity – the main theme of the Congress.

FIA and its member unions are committed to promoting equal employment opportunities and non-discrimination for performers, regardless of sex, age, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, religion or belief, genetic features, political opinion, membership of a national minority, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The extraordinary variety of the FIA Congress delegates was a true reflection of what the federation stands for when it speaks, with one voice, on behalf of all performers."We are proud of the work that we do, as we endeavour to enhance terms and conditions for performers around the world and work so they may enjoy a fulfilling professional career, with employment opportunities solely based on their talent”– said Ferne Downey, unanimously elected to head the federation for a second consecutive mandate as its President. 

As a FIA global survey recently revealed, LGBT performers are among the most vulnerable in our community and are still shockingly discriminated against, particularly when roles are being cast. The resistance they still face when they seek to speak openly about their challenges and acknowledge them, makes them particularly powerful advocates for a more diverse and respectful environment in the media and entertainment business. "We simply cannot be true to ourselves unless we speak and fight for every performer”– said Dominick Luquer, General Secretary. “Solidarity is deeply embedded in our DNA and this means being next to those among our membership that are struggling the most. We stand united and care for one another. In this globalized world, each and every one of us counts." As transgender performer Lisa Crazy put it "when LGBT people carry the torch and are at the forefront of the fight for inclusion and equality, the societal change they engender is for the benefit of all". 

Through a week of intensive meetings, including all of FIA's geographical and linguistic constituencies and its main political bodies, delegates reflected on the work and activism of their federation, exchanging best practices and crafting new strategies to stay on top of their game. Unanimously carrying 33 motions, the FIA Congress established essential new priorities for action, in the fields of intellectual property, access to core labour rights, health and safety, training and career transition, solidarity and capacity building, double standards on global media and, of course, diversity and inclusion – whilst also reacting to immediate threats to fundamental freedoms affecting performers in various countries and their ability to make an honest living and work in safe environments.

The FIA Congress further consolidated the ties between FIA and the wider labour movement, with several guest speakers – from the Brazilian confederation UGT to global union federations UNI, UNI MEI and FIM - committing their support and cooperation to help advance the cause of performers in an increasingly globalised world, controlled by a few powerful corporate players. Trade unions must forge new alliances and start thinking outside the box to enforce respect for workers' rights at all production levels, from multinational to local, and the FIA Congress set a clear and ambitious programme to drive more equity and fairness into the industry. With new forms of employment increasing precariousness and insecurity in our sector, trade unions must reach out to an increasingly atypical workforce and seek innovative ways to resist the erosion of fundamental rights, whilst at the same time, extending the boundaries of their jurisdiction to less conventional types of work arrangements. The FIA Congress welcomed the support of the ILO in promoting the outreach of core labour rights beyond traditional, open-ended forms of employment to make sure that all performers, regardless of the nature of their work relationship, may join a union and bargain collectively. 

With the digital environment providing ever-greater opportunities for performers, and the potential to reach out to a truly global audience, the FIA Congress dwelled on the value gap that often prevents them from securing a fair return from the online exploitation of their work. As opportunities arise at international level to encourage a more equitable share of digital revenue in our sector, FIA is determined to continue to campaign for strong intellectual property protection for performers and play a constructive role in the implementation of effective remuneration mechanisms. The FIA Congress confirmed the ratification of the WIPO Beijing Treaty as a fundamental priority for FIA to enhance the respect for performers' economic and moral rights in the audiovisual sector, which is sorely needed in many parts of the world.

FIA can look forward with confidence towards the upcoming four years, knowing that the Federation is in good hands, with a committed new elected leadership and a very solid membership base. Our Congress has proven once again that FIA continues to be a strong voice for performers worldwide, with the will and determination to set the bar higher to meet new and upcoming challenges. We are diversity, and this is where our strength lies.

Click here to view all the approved FIA Congress motions.

A selection of pictures of the FIA Congress are available on our Flickr account.

Photo credits: Rodrigo Ono