Helpmann winners call on producers to resolve industrial dispute
Monday, 24 September 2012
Ninety-nine Helpmann Award winners – including Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush and Rachel Griffiths – have signed an open letter to members of Live Performance Australia (LPA), the hosts of tonight’s Helpmann Awards, calling on them to reconsider their abandonment of a long standing agreement on the use of overseas artists. The letter is published in The Australian today.
LPA, the peak body representing theatre producers, abruptly terminated the Agreement Governing the Use of Foreign Artists in Live Theatre in Australia in April and has since refused several requests from Actors Equity to discuss a new agreement.
The agreement set out the mutually agreed circumstances where producers were able to import performers in theatre and other areas of live performance. It took into account a raft of factors including the ethnic or physical requirements of a role, and whether or not the companies were taxpayer subsidised.
Actors Equity director Sue McCreadie said that without the agreement on the use of overseas artists many performers who are being recognised tonight might never have built a career here in Australia.
“Australian performers are right to be concerned about the termination of the agreement. There is no longer a requirement to consider Australian performers in the casting process and it opens up the possibility of whole casts coming in for musicals and drama productions”.
The letter states: “The unexpected termination of this agreement by LPA is of great concern to us and seriously jeopardises the harmony that performers and producers have worked so hard to achieve over the years.”
The signatories also include leading directors Neil Armfield, Simon Phillips and Gale Edwards, as well as writer David Williamson.
“Producers working on Broadway and the West End continue to operate within similar agreements. All we are asking for is a level playing field,” said McCreadie.
Over 40 working casts have passed resolutions calling on LPA to come back to the negotiating table. Recent mass meetings of performers in Sydney and Melbourne have resolved to consider industrial action if necessary.
“Actors Equity has made every effort to resolve this issue – we have listened to producers’ concerns and we are more than willing to sit down with LPA to negotiate an agreement that addresses the needs of producers and performers,” said McCreadie.
“LPA’s continued refusal to resolve the issue is disrespectful to Australian performers, without whom there would be no Australian live performance industry.”