The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) continues to assess the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for the general population in Canada. However, recent developments will have a significant impact on the Equity membership. As we all grapple with the spread of COVID-19 and the corresponding production and contract interruption and cancellations, we urge members to look after themselves and their health and continue to take reasonable precautions as necessary.
Statement from Equity's Executive Director Arden R. Ryshpan
At Equity we are doing everything we can to stay in touch with Engagers and to stay on top of this ever changing situation. There are no road maps for how the live performance industry should respond to such an unprecedented crisis. At this moment, our primary concern is to ensure that our members receive any appropriate termination or cancellation payments owed to them, based on the agreement or engagement policy they are working under.
We are reaching out to the Government to request that the conditions to access funds made available to support workers whose earnings are interrupted by the pandemic are extended to independent contractors in the arts and culture sector. Further, we are investigating the ways in which the streaming of live performances to paying audiences might be facilitated, as a way of keeping people working and under contract.
While Equity cannot control how this situation progresses, we promise that we will provide as much information and support to the membership as we can during this very challenging and unpredictable time.
Responding to Enquiries
As the COVID-19 situation unfolds, we encourage all members to remain calm and seek news information from reputable sources. This is a rapidly evolving situation and Equity is responding to all enquiries as soon as possible but it should be recognized that it is clearly not business as usual. As you may expect, members and Engagers both have urgent questions. We have been informed that some productions may close early and others may delay opening. As a result we are working hard to provide you with timely and accurate counsel.
Restrictions on the Size of Public Gatherings
In light of recent events including provincial voluntary or mandatory restrictions on the size of public gatherings, Equity is aware of the significant impact this may have on our members who are currently, or about to begin, working under contract. As of now, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario have announced a voluntary restriction on the size of public gatherings and British Columbia and Quebec have enacted mandatory restrictions. We expect that other provinces may follow suit with restrictions and it is possible that voluntary restrictions may become mandatory.
Given that each circumstance is different, we urge our members to speak to the Engager of a production and also contact Equity, (Contact Us) so that we can respond based on your specific circumstance. Please also refer to Equity's Member Advisory of March 12 regarding obligations while under contract.
Equity Member-Only COVID-19 Information Meeting
Equity will be holding a Zoom webinar member-only meeting to discuss the COVID-19 situation with Executive Director Arden R. Ryshpan, Director of Finance & Administration Marion (Maz) Magoris, CPA, CMA and Associate Executive Director Steven Sparling, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. (ET). Members in good standing may attend by signing into Equity's website.
Details are still being worked out. Please check www.caea.com on the afternoon of Monday, March 16 for more information. Questions may be sent in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org or will be fielded live.
Equity has reached out to our major industry partners and has been in contact with many of our Engagers. We are staying abreast of their various plans. Equity, its members, Engagers, and partner organizations must work together during the coming days and weeks in order to manage this situation.
Advocacy for Independent Contractors
Many Equity members (with the exception of some stage managers) are independent contractors and are not eligible for Employment Insurance benefits that may be available to workers who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Equity is collaborating with our fraternal colleagues ACTRA, the Canadian Media Guild, the Canadian Musicians Association, CWA Canada, Directors Guild of Canada and IATSE on an advocacy campaign directed at the federal Government urging income support for independent contractors. Equity will do everything within its power to advocate on behalf of the precarious independent contractor workforce affected by COVID-19.