- The long-running dispute between the ad industry and Equity is fizzling out with the warring parties unofficially accepting a new status quo that has emerged from the stalemate.
The actors' union, acknowledging that a settlement of the 13-month confrontation remains as far away as ever, has told its members they can accept work under the terms of an expired 1991 agreement.
The move effectively lifts Equity's ban on its members appearing in UK commercials and restricts the dispute to its original flash point -- the pegging of voiceover fees.
In a note to members, Ian McGarry, Equity's general secretary, said the union's decision was a reaction to employers' claims that they had no intention of attacking the 1991 terms and conditions for visual artists and because many agencies were now offering the 1991 terms to non-visual artists as well.
"We are now taking the employers at their word," he added. "If the 1991 terms are on offer, members can accept them."
It was the end of the 1991 agreement in April last year that led to the dispute and to the boycott of all UK commercials production by Equity members which has been in operation for eight months.
The union's instruction re-creates the situation as it was immediately before it began taking action over voiceover fees.
Equity this week denied its action was an admission of defeat, claiming that members' support remained solid and that it was taking the initiative in a deadlocked dispute . "It's a recognition that the employers will probably not return to negotiations in the foreseeable future," a union executive said. "The new status quo may prevail for some time."
But Bob Wootton, head of media services at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, commented: "It would be difficult to see this as anything other than a retreat. Equity has had to be pragmatic and recognise the custom and practice that seems to have evolved."
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising is warning members that despite the latest move -- described by one IPA source as "relaxing the position considerably" -- the dispute with Equity remains unresolved.
Wootton said: "The situation isn't ideal but it's close enough to make us question the need to get into a new agreement of the kind Equity proposes."