Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming has called on the UK government to consolidate the current benefits system to protect the entertainment industry and its workers amid ongoing Covid-related challenges.
Curtains went up in the UK’s theaters (and cinemas) this week as lockdown restrictions were eased, and there is hope that continued relaxing of rules will prompt recovery for the beleaguered cultural sector.
However, the prospect of a resurgence of the virus means that workers are far from secure.
“A basic income guarantee is the only way forward to ensure that the precarious freelance workforce which underpins the creative economy – worth more to the UK than banking – can survive the difficult months and years ahead,” Fleming said.
Fleming noted that the freelance nature of the industry meant many workers missed out on income support schemes during the lockdown, pinning the number at 40% of Equity’s members. He said that a basic income guarantee would help to shore up the biz as it emerges from a tricky period, adding that similar pilot schemes were underway in Wales and Scotland.
“For many creative workers, the pandemic has only exacerbated long-standing issues such as low pay, job insecurity and a lack of diversity in the industry,” he added.
Fleming also called on the government to provide insurance for live performance venues to protect them from the risk of possible future restrictions.
“This isn’t just a question of good economics, but is fundamentally about who our society believes has the right to be an artist or entertainer; who is allowed to be creative. The pandemic of precarity can’t go on. A simple reopening is not the whole answer,” he said.
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