Know Your Rights!!

This was also posted as a comment by Chris Luke.

MPE (My Previous Employer) are reacting to our initiative and making changes: MPE are handing out contracts: They covered themselves nicely for the March run of their South African show in KZN. Everyone in this cast got contracts and only because we encouraged an investigation from their endorsee, which took place in January. MPE got wind of our request on our sites and did something about it in fear of losing that endorsement. None of the performers in that show have had signatures on contracts for the last couple of years and now they have them. I was in that show since 2003 and travelled abroad with it in 2008 and 2009. So, that was an accomplishment.
MPE have taken down all boards and banners at Cresta with my image on it (the outside board was new and it’s been removed hastily) – this is what I wanted, as I am having a media war with MPE in KZN over rights to images and with regard to false advertising. (Please see the links below). Check your new contracts as to your rights regarding this issue; in fact, all of you should be supplied with a model release form to cover yourselves on this issue. KZN are using my image to advertise the show in March. That is called false advertising. MPE CANNOT USE YOUR IMAGE IN PERPETUITY. I personally do not want my image associated with the brand.
Further: The issue of contracts is not solved:
Firstly, please note: This initiative DOES NOT apply to actors who work for MPE with agents (i.e. for the shows R and G etc.). MPE are forced to supply contracts for those shows because actors work with individual agents. And their agents must have contracts. Musicians and singers however, DO NOT work on this system – they fend for themselves when it comes to contractual issues. So when MPE says: ‘we do supply contracts, here they are’ and show investigators piles of contracts from those  shows that is a circumvention of the issue.
Secondly, this is not about pay slips or UIF. All of those MPE can provide and when they get investigated it looks impressive.
Thirdly, this is about contractual rights of performers. This is about (and this is who this initiative is aimed at) all of you at MPE, primarily musicians and singers who have worked for MPE for over two or three consecutive runs i.e. 6 to 8 months and keep getting booked for consecutive runs. They keep you on, and on, and on for years at a time. You think it’s great because (even though you don’t have a contract) you are getting work. 5 years pass and you realize that if MPE had to drop you for the next two runs, you are going to be out of work for 6 months. You are going to lose 6 months salary because trying to get back into the loop (the music industry that that you left 5 years ago) isn’t going to happen in 6 months. So all the assets that you have accrued with your so-called ‘permanent’ salary at MPE can’t be sustained for the next six months.
Permanent employment according to Labour Law is working over 40 hours a month for more than three months. You are working over 70 hours a month and do free rehearsals. In fact, you are permanently at the disposal of MPE. That means you are entitled to permanent employment benefits. i.e paid breaks or holidays (and a whole host of other things)
PLEASE NOTE: If you have worked for MPE for 1 solid year, or 2, 3 , 4 , 5 and in some cases 8 years (and there are many of you) and MPE’s intention is to keep you on for another year in that show, or in another show, and you cannot leave the show and put in a replacement AT ANY TIME OF YOUR CHOOSING – THEN YOU NEED A PERMANENT EMPLOYEE CONTRACT.
Fourthly, if you are doing runs of shows for MPE and they are taking up most of your year, but they are not consecutive runs – YOU ARE ENTITLED TO AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR CONTRACT. This means that you are entitled to work with a dep (replacement) by law and you can sustain your career outside of MPE protecting you from needless loss of income when a show run ends. If MPE took this seriously and changed protocol, you could triple your salary (do all the well paying corporates) and still perform for MPE while you work six to eight months of the year for them.
Fifthly, protocol has to be set by MPE with regard to these issues. If it is not, then double standards occur i.e. some people get to put in replacements but others do not. Some people are fined but others are not. (MPE cannot fine anyone for putting in a replacement).
I URGE ALL SINGERS AND MUSICIANS AT MPE TO LOOK AT YOUR NEW CONTRACTS AND REASSESS THEM IN THE ABOVE TERMS. This system could work perfectly, all of you, including MPE could be happy. It’s time MPE did this by the book. You are entitled to assess your contract and you are entitled to a forum for grievances by law. You are also entitled to paid rehearsals. And you are entitled to be insured when you are on stage or in the building for work. If you are dismissed unfairly, or dropped before a run: If you can prove that you have worked for them for that period of time and they can’t show you a contract with your signature on it then yours is a cut and dried case at the CCMA.
The turn in the tide is now people. Do not let MPE take advantage of you. Change has and will come. The better you are informed and educated the better you can protect yourself.
Chris Luke
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