12 October 2010
Background artistes are advised to study the changes to the agency regulations which came into force on 1 October 2010.
The changes, which extend the cooling off period during which artistes can challenge agency contracts, provide a modest improvement in rights in response to BECTU's campaign for a ban on upfront fees.
From 1 October 2010, background artistes have 30 days in which to challenge agency proposals to charge upfront fees - a fee charged by many agencies simply for taking an artiste on to their books.
In BECTU's experience, rogue agencies charge these fees and do little, if anything, subsequently to place people in work.
From 1 October 2010, background artistes have 30 days in which to challenge agency proposals to charge upfront fees
Entertainment and modelling guidance from the government department, BIS, states:
"The statutory cooling off period in respect of any upfront fee will be extended from 7 to 30 days for the occupations of actor, background artist, dancer, extra, musician, singer or other performer. No fee can be charged during this period."
Interestingly, the 2010 review of the 2003 agency regulations banned the charging of upfront fees for those seeking work as models.
A statement from BIS on 30 September explained:
"The absolute ban will not extend to the placement of other entertainers, such as actors, musicians and extras. The risk of abuse is significantly lower in these sectors and a ban would have a disproportionate effect on perfectly legitimate businesses."
BECTU criticised the previous Labour government's failure to tackle the problem of exploitative agencies in the entertainment sector. The union believes that a ban, similar to that now in place for modelling, would deal with the many unscrupulous operators.
The latests guidance from BIS covers:
The failure of government to provide adequate protection for entertainment workers who rely on agencies has encouraged BECTU to investigate the feasibility of an agency based on a co-operative model. This study is underway in partnership with Co-operatives UK.