For the first time in South Africa, there is the possibility of a statutory mechanism that secures the economic content of the rights that performers are routinely required to transfer to the producer. Through the Copyright Amendment Bill we have a realistic hope of negotiating equitable contracts.
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Being ‘between jobs’ has long been a euphemism for ‘unemployment’ but, is a freelance actor ever in fact ‘employed’? In, at any rate, even when an actor is working, he or she is not employed, but rather ‘contracted’. You see, actors are considered to be ‘Independent Contractors’: in other words, to be ‘self employed’. Aye, there’s the rub.
The South African Guild of Actors hosted a series of conferences in Johannesburg and Cape Town aimed at strengthening actors’ rights to decent working conditions and fair compensation.
“Has anyone had a call from the Taxman to say you owe him money?” An awkward murmur rumbles through the gathering, but no-one’s putting up their hand.
“Not?” Still, there are no volunteers.
When the long-running soap-opera ‘Generations’ went off air, the 16 actors at the centre of the storm filed papers with the CCMA, challenging their dismissal. The first question the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration had to answer is whether or not it has jurisdiction at all in the matter: are the actors ‘employees’ as defined in the labour legislation, or are they in fact common law ‘independent contractors’.
The South African Guild of Actors is in the process of negotiating with various stakeholders on contractual matters, particularly those governing the further commercial exploitation of the work of performers in the broadcast media. And do you know what? We are being heard.