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Whilesomeunionslikeco-hostsACTRACanadianActorsEquityAssociationandUniondesArtistessentmultipledelegatesthereweresomerepresentativestravelingsoloandfortheirfirsttime.AllperformerswhoentertheFIAarenaarewelcomedwhole-heartedly.DelegateswhodrecentlybattledtomaketheirowncountriesrecognizetheirveryexistencewerehappytobesupportedbyfellowperformersastheywereenfoldedintotheFIAfamily.Itsquiteajourneythatweundergoindividuallyasartists.Asperformerswesharemanychallengesbecausethelifeofanartistisneveraneasypath.ItsaprecariouscareerfilledwithuncertainworkopportunitiesandfluctuatingpaychequesitsbuiltontakingrisksembracingchangeandreinventingoneselfsaysthenewlyelectedFIAPresidentFerneDowney.OvertheweekIfoundtimetopullsomeoftheinternationaldelegatesasideandtalktothemabouthowFIAissupportingaidingandinspiringtheirdevelopingunions.CarlynndeWaal-SmitSecretaryoftheSouthAfricanGuildofActorsSAGAsmilesasshesharesapunatherownexpenseWellithasbeenasagatothispoint.Sheexplainshowherunioncametobeandhowasanactorsagentshebecamesecretaryofaunion.BecauseImanagentIhavealottodowiththecontractingofactorsknowingtheirtermsandsolvingtheproblemstheyhave.AftermeetingwithaproducertodiscussrepeatfeesforartistsdeWaal-SmitwaschallengedfromacrossthetableIfyoudontlikeittakeustocourtTalkaboutwavingaredflagcontinuesdeWaal-Smit.Thismademeiratetodosomethingaboutit.ThebiggestissuefacinguswasthatSouthAfricanactorswereseenasindependentcontractorsnotemployeesandthereforecannotunionize.Wewereinastalemateforawhile.Weveonlybeengoingatitfortwoyearsofficially.InAugust2010weformedourfirstmembershipintermsofpeoplesigningupandpayingtheirdues.InNewZealandalonghistoryhasntnecessarilyledtostabilityfortheNewZealandActorsEquityoverthepastfewdecades.JenniferWard-LealandPresidentofNewZealandActorsEquityexplainsherrockyroadEquityhasactuallyexistedforover35years.Itwasreasonablystronginthe70sand80sandthenitwasundonebytheemploymentcontractsbillthatwaspassedbytheright-winggovernmentintheearly90s.ItwasthenthatNewZealandactorsstartedbecomingfreelancers.ContinuesWard-LealandWelostemployeestatus.Lotsofthingschangedtheuniongotweakerandweaker.Weonlyhadanorganizerparttime.Eventuallyweamalgamatedintothenationaldistributionunionwhichrepresentslabourerssuchasshopworkersmeatworkerssupermarketworkers.SheraisedaneyebrowasshediplomaticallycommentedonthatbizarresituationWithallrespecttoourbrothersandsistersnotanaturalfitforus.Soinabout2006theCouncilofTradeUnionssaidtheywouldconsidertakingtheactorsequityunionundertheirwingaddingsensiblyOnlyiftheactorswantit.Theactorsvotedwithan82majorityandwehavesinceachievedterrificmembershipgains.Wearenowatover500members.VincentMwembaSecretaryGeneraloftheOruuanoNamibianArtistsUnionalsofacedchallengesfromhisgovernment.BeingaperformermyselfitwasnotsoeasytoconvincethegovernmenttohelpusMwembatellsmeoverabreakattheFIACongress.EverytimewewouldgotothemforhelptheywouldtellusNoyouhavetogoandorganizeyourselfandbythattimetherewasnosuchorganization.Everyindividualartistwhohadaproblemwouldhavetogotoaminister.EventuallytheysaidNothiscannotbewecannothelpeverybodytrytocometogetherandformabodythatcanspeakonbehalfoftheactors.ItwaswhileresearchingtheshapeofthatfutureunionthatMwembadiscoveredFIA.MemetAliAlaboraPresidentoftheActorsUnionofTurkeywasthrilledtotellmethathisunionhadjustbecomethenewestFIAmemberandwaswelcomedbytheFIAExecutivejustthedaybefore.InTurkeythefirstperformersunionwasfoundedinthe1950sandmadeupofactorsoperasingersandsometheatreworkers.AlaborapicksupthestoryThefilmindustrysawauniondevelopin1963whichincludedsomeactorsbutitcoveredalloftheworkersincludingdirectorsandeveryone.Thislastedfortwoyears.Thenin1968therewastheTheatreWorkersUnionwhichmostlywasfoundedbytheactorsbutalsoincludedotherworkerswhichlastedagainfortwoyears.Thencameanotherunionforcinemaworkersagainin1978whichstillexists.Butthefirstunionsolelyforac-torsforperformersistheActorsUnionofTurkeywhichwasfoundedinMarch2011.CarlynndeWaal-SmitSecretaryoftheSouthAfricanGuildofActorsandVincentMwembaSecretaryGeneraloftheOruuanoNamibianArtistsUnion.PhotoJeremyWebbJenniferWard-LealandPresidentoftheNewZealandActorsEquityACTRAmagazineWinter201321