Sunday, 8 April 2018

Working Together: Trade Union and Co-operative Innovations for Precarious Work

Dear Colleagues,
I am very pleased to report that I'll be attending (representing Equity) a conference on 18th April in Manchester with the critically important theme of exploring ways in which the labour and co-operative movements can better collaborate to organise and represent the interests of precarious workers. The event falls under the umbrella of a recently published report following an extensive research exercise.

The report, titled 'Working Together: Trade Union and Co-operative Innovations for Precarious Work' calls for increased collaboration between trade unions and co-operative to protect the rights of part-time, zero hour contract, temporary, self-employed and freelance workers.
Supported by the Network for Social Change, Wales Co-operative Centre and the Institute for Solidarity Economics, the report highlights Indycube as a blueprint for how partnerships between trade union and co-operatives can flourish.

Cilla Ross, Vice-Principal at the Co-op College (and my thesis supervisor) outlines in the clip above the crisis of precarious work in the UK and the opportunity provided to create a resurgence of worker's control in the way that the labour and co-operative movements respond.

Further details of the report and event are here:

I'll post a short comment on the outcomes of the event at some point after 18/04.

In Solidarity


Sunday, 18 March 2018

Social Movement Learning and the Intellectual Work of Activism

Dear Colleagues,

Although I have plugged this book before, as I continue to work on writing-up my thesis findings, I need to record my thanks for the output of Aziz Choudry. His edited book (with Dip Kapoor) Learning from the Ground Up, was my early introduction to what my thesis could reflect in examining how my work at Ruskin through the MA ILTUS, could impact upon labour movement renewal.

It was however Choudry's last book, Learning Activism: The Intellectual Life of Contemporary Social Movements, which most influenced my thoughts on the political purpose of my research, not least in championing a greater alliance between the learning that takes place between trade union and other social movements.

I've been grateful to see this happen recently in a number of ways, but am particularly thankful for the work of John Page in enabling this to occur under the umbrella of the Ella Baker School of Transformative Organising:

What I am keen to do once the thesis is submitted is work more closely with John, and others, in realising other forums which allow for a reflection on how activists in progressive movements learn through and from their activism, and how this shapes their political consciousness.

So, back to the writing.

In Solidarity


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Thumbs up for Analytic Memos

Dear Colleagues,

Just a short break from thesis writing to stress how much I have benefitted from adopting a simple, yet profoundly important, stage in the process of critically interpreting and analysis data generated from fieldwork.

The analytic memo (AM) is the simplest device: constantly write short sharp, precise notes to yourself as you review what you have found as you sift through your data, and in particular document those moments, events etc. which are what you feel critical stages in developing an argument, theory etc.

We were introduced to the AM early on in the professional doctorate programme, but as with most part-time programmes you forget a lot, and don't adopt everything which is suggested as making your life easy. As I was fortunate to have a sabbatical from Ruskin College at the time of coding/analysing my data, I had the chance to review those early notes from sessions on how to make this process as easy as possible, but also how to yield the greatest insight from what you've gathered.

There is plenty of material out there on the role of the AM (some links below) and of course the standard textbooks like Alan Bryman's Social Research Methods, provide a solid introduction. What I would say though is, don't get bogged down in thinking there is a right/wrong way to do write these.

My pointers would be:
Write them often and in clear as language as possible. You'll be reading them months/years later and you might not remember certain acronyms, phrases etc you use at the time.
Accurately record date, time etc.
Write statements on why you feel the need to write what you are writing e.g. you have been tired and missed earlier connections between findings.
Don't feel that you are writing comments that will prove unhelpful later - you can decide later on what's helpful/useful or not, but best to have too much to sift through than too little.
Keep the notes regularly backed up. I used Cloud options, but would also email myself a copy of each set of AM at the end of each day.

There is loads of useful material, and sample AM out there:

Right then, back to my writing. It's good to get these thoughts out of your head and posted. Hope they are useful.

In Solidarity


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Still Busy (but focusing on writing thesis)

Dear Colleagues,

I am conscious that I haven't posted anything for far too long, although happy that my time is being spent wisely focused on writing-up my docoral thesis, and getting stuck into the new job at Equity.

To prove that I am up to good things I thought I'd post a brief message, and a small sample of photos from my various travels, not least to emphasise that I am combining travels with a continued focus on activist education, so I am still mining experience for my thesis.

I've been fortunate over the past few months to (a ) start to engage in the unique form of activism which springs from Equity's focus on freelance/gig/self-employed/unemployed activists/members and (b) maintain a link to the more conventional forms of activism in UNISON etc.

This bridge between the conventional and non-conventional forms of activism is fascinating, and is a real plus for some of analysis/thinking in my thesis research.

One particularly interesting experience which relates to the thesis arose during the Ella Baker retreated in Doncaster last month. This episode underlined the inherent tensions and antagonisms which spring from different organising traditions, and perhaps also from the differing appreciations of the politics of organising between community and TU organisers. My thesis is arguing for greater degrees of co-operation between the two - reflecting multiple and over-lapping forms of political mobilisation as a feature of an ecology of movements in capitalist economies.

I'll try and post more over the new few months, but apologies again for what will be period of happy writing/organising/activism, but limited/few posts :)

Sat 24 Feb: Facilitation UNISON SW Black Activist Development Day

Ella Baker School of Transformative Organising: Weekend Retreat
RMT Educational Centre, Doncaster 16-18th Feb

24-25th Nov, Bristol. UNISON Black Activist Development Weekend

14th November. With activists who comprise Equity's D/deaf and Disabled
Member's Committee

22nd November. With the activists who comprise Equity's Women's Committee

In Solidarity


Saturday, 23 December 2017

On New Terrain: How Capital is Re-shaping the Battleground of Class War

Dear Colleagues,

Yet more apologies for the lack of posts since starting working for Equity.

As a final post for 2018 I thought I'd give a plug for the new book from veteran activist and author Kim Moody, On New Terrain: How capital is re-shaping the battleground of class war.

I am particularly honoured in being asked to write a review of Kim's new book for the British Journal of Industrial Relations (BJIR).

Kim's output has been particularly valuable for those working with trade union activists and officials on their response to major change in the global political economy of work. His 1997 book, Workers in a Lean World, is a classic account of organised Labour's response globally to the concerted efforts to downsize and introduce lean production. I, and many others, drew heavily on the book in teaching with trade unionists, and devising policy and campaign strategies.

Similarly, this latest book provides a thorough analysis of how new, thoughtful strategies of workers' organisation despite can respond to aggressive strategies globally to increase productive output at the economic and social cost of the global working class.

Full book details are here:

I'll post the link once the review is finished.

I wish you a good break over Xmas, and a new year full of promise for workers' organisation.

In Solidarity


Sunday, 5 November 2017

We do not and will not tolerate abusive behaviour

Dear Colleagues,

It's been difficult to post regularly since starting my new post at Equity. It has been a fascinating time to join Equity and to support the union's historical mission to eradicate a culture of abuse and harassment. The social, political and cultural nature of the problem was spelt out clearly by Equity's General Secretary in a detailed Morning Star article on 31st October.

A particularly important theme of the article is that as the union for workers in the creative industries, Equity will still be focusing on this problem long after the media interest has dissipated.

The scale of sexual harassment is no surprise for women in the creative industries, writes Equity general secretary CHRISTINE PAYNE

IT HAS almost been a month since the Harvey Weinstein revelations began to emerge The scale of alarming testimonies from well and lesser-known performers may have come as a surprise to some, but they are an all too familiar reality for the thousands of workers in the creative industries — particularly women.

Defending Equity members individually and collectively from sexual and other forms of harassment in the audition room, in rehearsal spaces and in the workplace is the everyday business of our union.
We do not and will not tolerate abusive behaviour by employers or engagers.
Equity has been able to provide support and legal assistance to a number of members who have reported incidents to us over the years.

We will continue to do this and encourage any performer who has experienced bullying, harassment or intimidation at work at any time in the past to contact Equity’s offices or email on a confidential basis We are also mindful of the fact that many of those working in our sector are self-employed, precarious workers.

Precarity is often linked to the denial of basic employment rights such as the National Living Wage and health and safety at work. In an environment of ongoing cuts to arts funding and combined with the highly competitive nature of the labour market, precarity leads to an environment where performers and other creative workers fear that speaking up in defence of their rights will lead to them being excluded from future work opportunities.

Instead of reporting inappropriate behaviour, too many creative workers choose to keep their heads down and try to stick it out until the end of their short-term contract. It is vitally important for these workers to join and get active in their union in order to access individual help, but also to be part of our collective efforts to fight for dignity and respect at work. Bullying and sexual harassment of workers is never acceptable. It cannot be excused as being “part of the creative process” or explained away as an unfortunate adjunct of the informal networking and highly subjective recruitment practices that pervade the entertainment industry.

The reality is that our sector, like any sector of the economy, must respect employment and equality laws from the moment a worker is recruited through to when they finish the job. Equity will continue to challenge any employer who abuses or exploits our members. We will also continue to fight for equality across the industries where we organise performers and we will seek to extend the protections in our collective agreements to emerging areas of work.

We will empower our members to tackle inappropriate behaviour through promoting and building on our recently published Casting Questions guidance, which are available here:

In response to the demand from members to report historical and recent allegations, in the coming weeks we intend to establish a working group within Equity to gather testimonies from our members: women and men, LGBT+, disabled and BAME. We will also work with other campaigning groups in the industry, including Equal Representation for Actresses, Women@Rada and Women in Film and TV to amplify each other’s demands and identify initiatives that others are working on to address harassment.

The recommendations of our working group will be presented to employers across the sector for action towards the end of this year. We will also highlight our existing campaigns seeking to achieve structural changes to the industry.

Women in Equity have campaigned tirelessly for many years to achieve equal representation on stage and screen, for better portrayal of women in the media and have called out the discrimination faced by older performers. They have also lobbied for women to hold more positions of power throughout the industry and demanded more opportunities for women directors and writers. It is well past the time for the industry to act on these demands.

The Weinstein revelations will no doubt be followed by further disclosures across the film, television, theatre and wider media industries. This is a key moment for the industry to harness the energy generated by the current furore and seize the opportunity to make changes that can eliminate bad practice. Many employers have expressed an appetite for measures to prevent poor practice and again, Equity can help with this.

A first, practical step that employers can take is to sign up right now to Equity’s Manifesto for Casting, available at

The manifesto sets out Equity’s vision of how the process of casting — which is the main recruitment method used in our industry — can be made more professional, fairer, less stressful and more inclusive. The manifesto reminds employers that it is unlawful to discriminate in the engagement of performers on the grounds of their Protected Characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010.
Crucially, the manifesto also reiterates important provisions covering nudity and sex scenes from Equity’s collective agreements, namely, that no sex act should be requested at any audition and a performer should not be requested to undress in whole or in part unless a mutually agreed observer is present.

In the weeks ahead as the media interest in this story begins to wane, Equity will continue to organise and campaign around this issue. We will do all that we can to ensure that the statements that have been made by those with power in our industry are followed up with concrete and real action which will bring about the radical change needed to make our industry safer for all creative workers.
Christine Payne is the general secretary of Equity.

In Solidarity


Thursday, 28 September 2017

Social Change and Creative Activism in the 21st Century


I am highly conscious of the limited number of posts written. The last few months have been difficult, and I am just about to take on a new trade union role (of which I shall post separately) but for now just wanted to plug an exciting new book (Social Change and Creative Activism in the 21st Century by Silas Harrebye) which aligns with a core feature of my doctoral research.

Here is a good review of the book here:

Although Harrebye's key interests are creative actors able to facilitate a transition beyond traditional modes of protest and action, my interest is the overlap between his definition of creative activism, and my research focus on embodied learning and embodied activism.

Harrebye creates what I argue is a false dichomotomy between what he argues is an older, redundant tradition of workplace/street-based activism, and that generated and populated by a distinct cohort of cultural and artistic activists. He cites his parents generation as representative of the former, and casts them as part of a grey, monolithic bloc, and fails to engage with, given his Danish heritage, the monumental achievements of the Danish trade union movement/left as part of the Nordic 20th century social movement that created a foundational welfare state.

It is a very interesting book, and as I transition to a trade union for actors, entertainers and creatives I am hoping to make a link between my existing research interests and what will be a new, exciting area of work for me.

In Solidarity