- Equity has thrown in the towel to end the financial pain being endured by its members in the dispute which has plagued commercials making in Britain for almost two years.
The actors' union admitted this week that its efforts had failed to force employers to the negotiating table and that its stance was causing many of its members to lose thousands of pounds to non-union artists.
The capitulation was completed with the lifting of an order to Equity voiceover artists to accept work only under the terms of an expired 1991 agreement.
Instead, voiceovers can take work under whatever terms they choose to accept. "Our members have to compete in a changing market," an Equity official admitted.
The move follows research carried out by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers. They claim that out of 1,500 voiceover engagements made between May 1997 and October 1998, only 15 per cent were under the terms of the 1991 agreement.
In a letter to agents and personal managers, Ian McGarry, Equity's general secretary, said: "We believe we can no longer allow our members and their agents to continue to make such a sacrifice in the face of these realities."
He added: "It is true that, with this instruction, we are conceding that the employers have, to some extent, achieved what they set out to do."
It was the pegging of voiceover fees that sparked the dispute which escalated into a boycott of commercials production by all Equity members.
The union claimed that employers' proposals would cut voiceover artists' earnings by up to two-thirds. Officials also feared the IPA and ISBA would also attempt to cut fees for vision artists once the voiceover battle had been won.
The climbdown opens the way for negotiations on a new agreement although none are scheduled and employers' leaders insisted they would not be pressing for a meeting.
Bob Wootton, ISBA's head of media services, said: "We are operating successfully in an open market with no strings and we are not restricted to a particular pool of talent."
Graham Hinton, the IPA president, said: "Although the dispute caused us some discomfort it never disrupted the production line. We've reached a point where we can manage well without an agreement."