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Strategic Realignment: SAGA and UASA

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When SAGA was established more than thirteen years ago, it was with the intention of registering as a labour union. It soon became clear that we were precluded from doing so in terms of the current labour laws, as we represent predominantly freelance actors, or self-employed ‘independent contractors’. An opportunity to forge a relationship with an established labour partner presented itself and we entered an agreement with the United Associations of South Africa (UASA). Through UASA’s membership of the trade union federation, FEDUSA, SAGA was able to have our voice heard at NEDLAC – the statutory consultative forum that includes organised labour, organised business and government.

In addition, UASA ostensibly provided legal support to our members, but their expertise lay exclusively in the area of labour law, while our members were most often in need of support in the domain of contract law. This deficiency in UASA’s offering soon became apparent and, in order to offer the appropriate legal support to our members, SAGA appointed our in-house legal specialists with attorney Kelly Kropman placed on retainer.

Ms Kropman quickly became a valuable and outspoken ally and her involvement soon extended beyond the provision of legal support to our individual members. Kelly’s expertise became invaluable in drafting submissions to Parliament in support of the Copyright and Performers Protection Amendment Bills, and submissions to the Department of Employment and Labour in the quest for a sectoral determination that would include labour protections for freelancers. In her spare time, Ms Kropman also helped to formulate an application to the Competition Commission for an exemption that would allow us to, once again, publish tables of standardised minimum rates for voice-overs, theatre film and television work.   

It became clear that SAGA had outgrown our relationship with UASA: we have secured open channels of communication independently with the Departments of Trade and Industry, Employment and Labour, and Sports, Arts and Culture. what’s more, SAGA’s  interests were no longer aligned with those of UASA, which remains purely a labour union. SAGA, on the other hand, has been pursuing a sectoral determination that will accommodate freelancers within the statutory framework. As there was no longer a need for a labour partner, we felt a clean break was the best way to serve our members. Accordingly, we sent notice to UASA of our intention to end our relationship, effective the end of October 2023.

To our disappointment and without our knowledge, it appears that UASA responded to our notice by making a direct approach to each of our members, claiming that they intend to create an “Arts and Entertainment sector” within their own organisation. Since this intention did not exist within UASA before SAGA sent our termination notice, we view their divisive action as opportunistic, self-serving and unethical, not to mention a flagrant breach of our agreement which remains in force until the end of October 2023.

SAGA is, of course keen to retain our members and the Executive Committee has been speaking individually to each of our members to put them fully in the picture. SAGA has also sent each of our members an email, containing a link to a secure online portal where all their details can be updated and where SAGA can obtain a fresh mandate to continue serving each member’s best interests. Those links are now also available on our website.

SAGA has appointed an independent service provider to collect and process membership dues, and will be securing further benefits to our members, at a new rate of R160.

Ancillary benefits to SAGA members currently include:

  • Funeral Benefit;
  • 25% discount on IMDbPro membership;
  • 50% off Capital Legacy financial services;
  • Discount on Workshops – only SAGA offers professional development skills training for actors;
  • Discount on Theatre tickets with select theatres;
  • Professional designation with SAQA;
  • Membership of FIA and SASFED – local and international industry bodies that are specific to actors;
  • Full membership rate of  R160.00 per month;
  • All membership subscriptions are, of course, fully tax deductible.

Photo by Jani Kaasinen on Unsplash

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