U.K. actors union Equity is preparing advice for its members as SAG-AFTRA gets ready to take strike action on Thursday.
Variety understands that the union, which has 50,000 members, has agreed a basic position with its U.S. counterpart. These rules will apply to U.K. productions, and the two groups are in the process of hammering out the finer details.
Equity is asking members to check its website for the specific advice around 8 p.m. U.K. time on Thursday, which coincides with a SAG-AFTRA press conference in Los Angeles at noon Pacific time that will officially announce the actors strike.
Sources indicate that the U.K.’s strict union laws prevent an extensive show of solidarity from Equity, which can’t legally call a strike to support SAG-AFTRA due to restrictive British legislation.
The London-headquartered org is the 12th largest trade union in the U.K., and represents actors, singers, dancers, designers, directors, stage managers and voice artists, among others. As the profile of British talent has grown in Hollywood over the last decade, so too has Equity’s power.
The U.K. actors union has so far stayed quiet on advising members. This is largely because working out the rules of play during a strike is an extensive process, mired in the legalities of a specific jurisdiction. Equity general secretary Paul W. Fleming held meetings in Los Angeles with SAG-AFTRA last month to discuss the unions’ shared agenda, and the executive told Variety in late June that Equity wouldn’t “undermine” its American counterpart in any way.
SAG-AFTRA’s contract expired on June 30, but the union extended negotiations with Hollywood’s collective bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, to July 12. However, talks broke down during the extension period and a deal wasn’t reached by SAG-AFTRA’s contract expiry on Wednesday night.
SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 performers, has not gone on strike against the film and TV companies since 1980. The last time the actors and writers were on strike simultaneously was 1960.
The union is seeking a streaming residual formula that would account for the success of shows. The studios have been unwilling to disclose their own viewership data, leading SAG-AFTRA to propose using metrics from Parrot Analytics, a third-party data firm.
It is also seeking regulations on the use of artificial intelligence, which would require that actors be paid for any AI-generated use of their likeness, as well as limits on self-taped auditions and a host of other issues.
In a message to its members early Thursday, the union highlighted that both streaming and AI as core issues in the negotiations.
Many of these issues affecting American performers have also resonated in the U.K. In recent years, concerns over artificial intelligence and self-taped auditions have been just as rife in Britain. “Honestly, one reads the SAG-AFTRA claim and they are absolutely the same issues we’re discussing with producers in the U.K.,” Fleming told Variety last month.