Equity calls off voiceover dispute

Equity has thrown in the towel in the dispute which has plagued commercials production in Britain for almost two years.

Equity has thrown in the towel in the dispute which has plagued

commercials production in Britain for almost two years.

The actors’ union admitted this week that its efforts to force employers

to the negotiating table had failed and that its stance was causing many

of its members to lose thousands of pounds to artists not in the


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


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,

which claims 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


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 Equity.

The union claimed that employers’ proposals would cut voiceover artists’

earnings by up to two-thirds. Officials also feared the IPA and ISBA

would attempt to cut fees for vision artists once the voice-over 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 without strings attached 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.’


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