Currently, every member can express personal, political, other beliefs
8th April 2011: Equity is seeking to change its rules, which could empower it to discipline or expel racist members.
The move comes soon after Equity earned criticism following alleged inaction even after it came to light that ballerina Simone Clarke was a member of the British National Party in 2006.
As of now, Equity rule 3.2.17 guarantees the right of every member to hold and express their personal, political and other beliefs in private and professional capacities.
As such, the union was not able to raise the matter with Clarke, who was also an Equity deputy.
There was no evidence that Clarke acted in a racist manner. But still, the union came under fire for not initiating a stronger stance on the issue.
Equity is now calling on its members to vote on the proposed rule change.
Union spokesman Martin Brown said this sends out a clear signal to those performers, many of them minority ethnic performers, who at the time of the Simone Clarke incident asked why they would join a union like Equity when it won’t deal with that sort of thing.
That was an absolutely fair question. They were seeking to change the rules in a way they hoped would mean they were in a better position if something like the earlier incident happened again.
The changes to the union’s rules were first mooted way back in 2007. At that time, the Minority Ethnic Members’ Committee forwarded a motion to the annual conference. The motion had called on the union to delete rule 3.2.17. But, it was rejected, as vice-president Jean Rogers was of the view that its removal would be a “disaster to democracy and civil liberties”.
But again in 2008, the union carried out a review of its rules and added rule 220.127.116.11 – underscoring its opposition to prejudice, harassment and unfair discrimination.
Again, in 2010, the Minority Ethnic Members’ Committee brought another motion to the annual conference calling on the council to initiate a referendum on changing its rule on the members’ rights to express their beliefs both privately and professionally.
The motion was referred to the Equity council. It, in turn, asked the union’s lawyers to draft the rule change. It will now be put to the members this week.