After some 13 months of anguish, allegation, counter-charge,
bluster and boycott, the dispute between the advertising industry and
Equity is right back where it started.
It took no great visionary power to predict this would happen. With both
sides locked in a stalemate it has been obvious for some time that an
unofficial working arrangement would emerge, tacitly allowing agencies,
advertisers and the actors’ union to do business with each other.
Equity has now allowed pragmatism to prevail by permitting its members
to accept work under the terms of an expired 1991 agreement. The effect
is to scale down the dispute considerably.
Understandably, Equity has attempted to put the best possible PR gloss
on its decision, claiming it as an initiative rather than a defeat. In
truth, there is probably little else the union could have done.
The ad industry has always known it needed only to sit tight to win the
day. The longer the dispute dragged on, the greater the hardship for
many of Equity’s grassroots members. And when Enn Reitel, Britain’s most
famous voiceover artist, quit the union branding it ’a closed shop run
on fear’, it was clear the writing was on the wall.
The sad fact is that a lot of people have lost a lot of money for no
discernable gain in a confrontation allowed to spin out of control. The
industry may believe it has ’won’ as it watches the union retreat with
as much dignity as it can. But there should be no triumphalism.
Festering resentment of one side by another won’t repair the