Tag Archives: change

Response to BY Theatre owners letter.

If you want to read what it says then go to the post called “Chris Luke responds to Barnyard article” posted on the 19/02/2010.


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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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Some Positive Action by B.Y.

The post below was sent in as a comment by Chris Luke but I believe it is important enough to use as a post because it shows that, with passion and belief in what is right, things that have been wrong for years can start to change.
From Chris Luke.
I’d just like to let you all know that BY Productions are obviously taking this more seriously than the BY franchise owners in KZN having recently removed their very new outside board at Cresta. The Board was very big, about 4 by 5 meters and had recently come up – one of the large images was of myself. This board is gone as well as the banner on the inside of the mall which had hung there for years and years – this had several large images of myself on it. I am glad to see that for once BY are actually listening and taking the awareness we have created seriously.  Was that in anticipation of my settlement on (changed to) Friday  – regardless, things are actually getting done. Fantastic.
We are the first (all support be praised) to give BY the shove they needed toward thinking about their protocol.

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Barnyard responds in press

TO THE EDITOR of the North Glen News

My response to Debbie Davidson: Letter posted in the North Glen News (week of the 19th February), Page 8 entitled:  ‘Barnyard Responds to Smear Campaign’.

I would like my response to be printed in your newspaper in full – no alterations, no adjustments. It has been edited grammatically by my proofreader. If you cannot print this response in your newspaper (at 377 words), I will get another newspaper to print it.Since I have been attacked in your newspaper, it would only be fair that you print my response.

Please see the links to the sites below, which pertain to the issues of artist exploitation:

An Internet group with 475 members, including highly respected actors, top artists and ex-Barnyard performers. The site is public. Please go to the discussion box and read the posts, particularly the twelve issues of protocol:


Please watch the video of Barnyard performers in Sun City who speak their testimonies. None of these performers had a contract. This was a case for the Health Department. The showgirls were on stage with unwashed hair for a week:


The Claw Project. My reply to Davidson’s letter will be posted on this site within the next two days. I will be expecting your print and my post to look the same


This is not a smear campaign. It is a well-informed fight for artists’ rights. It is the way we are battling this issue without a union. As a newspaper, I hope that you will remain impartial and tell both sides of the story.

Thank You

Chris Luke

** Chris Lukes response will be posted tomorrow morning.**


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Weekend Argus article.



Filed under Colin Law

The other side of the (C)Law.

This is a letter I received and I thought to be fair I should post it. All I have changed is to bold some parts that, for me, kind of stood out.

Hello Pat
I have only worked with you in a professional capacity and have huge respect for your work, but I am going to be quite candid here. I have worked with Colin for a long time and find this rather viscous and ongoing public attack quite distasteful. Just for the record there are a lot of people in the industry who are finding this extremely juvenile.
I think a business issue is one thing and unfortunately I think we all have them in this industry with various players, especially us as freelancers, but is it really necessary to mount such a personal and viscous attack on Colin. For whatever Colin’s faults are he is an independent producer who provides employment for a lot of people who work for him on a regular basis and he has done so for years.
I have seen some of the comments from people who i know are working or have recently worked for Colin and quite frankly I feel its very unprofessional to behave in this manner when you still will accept their money while slagging them off.
This whole issue brings our industry into disrepute and one thing i have learnt is that there are often 3 sides to a story.
I trust that you can understand where I am coming from.



My reply:

Hi Bridget – No not really! This is a guy  has personally ripped me off and has also ripped off a lot of people I know in the industry. The latest is a director who is owed over R40,000 from about 7 months ago. He is banned from Artscape for money owing from 6 years ago (R200,000) and has a high court judgement against him for around R100,000. In 3 days when the FB group went up asking how much he owed anybody we got close to 130 members in the 3 days. If you think this kind of unethical behaviour is good for the entertainment industry then I don’t know. It has been going on for over 35 years!!! Maybe in Johannesburg it has not been to bad but in Cape Town he has been a disaster.


Filed under Colin Law

Do SA artists take themselves seriously?

By kind permission of Thami aka Mbongo (Posted on http://www.artslink.co.za)
When there was a march against the SABC (4 June 2009) in Cape Town… a call was made to the artists of Cape Town, but very few responded to the call. Last weekend (21 November 2009), there was another call by the South African Guild of Actors for a meeting in Cape Town… the attendance was not that great to represent what Cape Town artists can offer. I wonder why?

South Africa is a freedom-fighting country – one can’t really believe that there are no unions for artists in this country. Artists have played a huge role in liberating our country.

Yet artists are still not respected and are not being taken seriously in this country.  One also needs to ask the question – are South African artists taking themselves seriously?

People believe that artists die poor… we have in South Africa so many great artists who have passed away bankrupt. As much as some of these artists needed to take full responsibility for their well-being and finances, there is so much that our government can do for the artists in this country.

If the government can change the police law in this country why can’t they just look at the needs of artists and the fact that artists need to be regarded as professionals, not just independent contractors. Our government knows well that artists are also taxpayers. Like the rest of professional workers, artists need access to medical benefits, retirement plans and other workers benefits.

Artists in this country have been badly exploited since the apartheid regime and still are up until this day. Artists need to be represented, so that they can get fair treatment, health benefits, pensions and decent working conditions. That’s why South Africa needs a union for artists that will protect artists against exploitation and mistreatment. The unions help protect unrecognised workers by providing them with the same benefits most employers would provide.

It is encouraging to know that the South African Guild of Actors saw that it is high time that South Africa had its own union for actors.

Actors who work in television, films, radio, theatre and elsewhere must also take a stand; not by feeling sorry for themselves and being victims who just complain and don’t do anything about the situation.

Have your say… take part in initiatives like South African Guild of Actors and make a difference.
Thami aka Mbongo
Performing Artist


Ismail Mahomed.

The reason the majority of actors unions have failed in South Africa is because of the issue of subscription — you can’t run a union on peanuts. Fulltime staff, office expenditure, etc, etc, etc … doesn’t fall like manna from heaven. Somebody is going to have to pay for it! And most actors only pay subscriptions when they are in deep shit and very few pay up front. If SAGA is planning to run an organisation with such a huge responsibility on that kind of minimalist subscription and love and fresh air, I’m wondering about how seriously you can take that Union? Or if I should just write the obituary now and pull it out of my drawer at a later date.

Let us mobilise for an Artists Equity now! I hope those artists that are getting government tenders for their arts projects, roles in city/town theatres,SABC soapies and dramas, and those priviledged enough to “have” emails , or respond to blogs, those “famous” celebrities, listen to this call.

Let’s hear your voice! Are you supportive of the Artists Equity? Speak up, make your voice heard!!!
Posted by Thando

The only way we can achieve this change in policy is through SOLIDARITY! Please keep spreading the word about SAGA and get people to join!!! There IS strength in numers. Our industry’s biggest downfall is the APATHY of its artists.
(Thanks for a great post.)
Posted by Jackie

I agree with Thami and Thando. In order to gain respect as artists and to avoid thorny problems such as the exploitation of artists; casting of international stars in our movies; pathetic performers payments; shabby treatment on the sets and sound representation from the casting agents and many others, we need to establish a tight ARTISTS organisation to represent us.
I searched on the net for relevant Artists organisations and I have found the British Artists Equity to be a better model that we can build our own from… their reference link is http://www.equity.org.uk/AboutUs/WhatIsEquity.aspx

And here is part of what I was impressed with, which I think can inspire ANYONE to join and Artists Equity in South Africa!

“Equity is the only Trade Union to represent artists from across the entire spectrum of arts and entertainment.
Equity quickly spread to encompass the whole range of professional entertainment so our membership includes actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, variety and circus artists, television and radio presenters, walk-on and supporting artists, stunt performers and directors and theatre fight directors.

Although we are a Trade Union, Equity is not politically affiliated and so does not make payments to any political party. This puts Equity in the strong position of being able to lobby with impunity governments of all political colours. We are however affiliated to the Trades Unions Congress and Equity delegates attend the annual TUC conference as a means of bringing performers’ issues to a wider audience.

The main function of Equity is to negotiate minimum terms and conditions of employment throughout the entire world of entertainment and to endeavour to ensure these take account of social and economic changes. We look to the future as well, negotiating agreements to embrace the new and emerging technologies which affect performers so satellite, digital television, new media and so on are all covered, as are the more traditional areas. We also work at national level by lobbying government and other bodies on issues of paramount importance to the membership. In addition we operate at an international level through the Federation of International Artists which Equity helped to establish, the International Committee for Artistic Freedom and through agreements with sister unions overseas.

In addition to these core activities, Equity strives to provide a wide range of services for members and so they are eligible for a whole host of benefits of membership which are continually being revised and developed.”
I am prepared to be part of any initiative along these lines.

Posted by Sabata Sesiu

I agree with you Thami. Fully. However, we should first affirm our own identity as “artists” before forming the union. we should unpack questions such as “what is an artist and what does it mean in South Africa? We need to find an “artistic meeting point” that relates to ideological, political and the business of being artists… I think it us far fetched to assume that the “artists” in the country think and even speak in one voice. In fact, they shouldn’t… but there needs to be a common ground where the needs are similar and the artistic identity is the same, as in the USA and the UK, where where “artists” are respected at all levels. We need an “artistic” Equity. Unions in our country are party political and I for one is an artist and not a politician and therefore favour an Equity. A follow up to your letter is crucial and we should now open an debate about it which will lead to a fully fledged artists Equity, which is by now, long overdue,
Posted by thando

Hi Thami,
I absolutely agree with you that artists need to take stand and be part of the solution to their problems, it cannot be correct that artists are bystanders in the resolution of their problems. However it is worth noting that one of the contributing factors is the survivalist nature (hand to mouth) of the industry. So artists must unite and push for development of their industry, few must sacrifice for the many passive hungry lot. It is amazing to note the development and progress made by the taxi industry over the years, albeit all the existing challenges, they are a key stakeholder in their industry, nothing about them without them. Please note though that there is a union, CWUSA (Creative Workers Union of SA), unfortunately is very weak. It needs to look at broader policy issues, issues of common interest to the broader industry, not gigs because that is the source of conflict and lack of growth. I am hopeful though that we will overcome, one day is one day. We do have a government that listens, so we should know exactly what we are asking, in terms of support from the government, not only complain and sound as if we are pushing for “poor artists” grants. Self-empowerment and developing/growing the industry is the key to moving forward. I am saying all the above fully aware that the industry’s challenges are complex and will need very thorough and well thought out intervention strategy.
Posted by Willie Reetsang

What is Equity

Equity is the only Trade Union to represent artists from across the entire spectrum of arts and entertainment. Formed in 1930 by a group of West End of London performers, Equity quickly spread to encompass the whole range of professional entertainment so our membership includes actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stage managers, theatre directors and designers, variety and circus artists, television and radio presenters, walk-on and supporting artists, stunt performers and directors and theatre fight directors.

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