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Hollywood Strikes Highlight the Plight of South African Actors: A Call for Change

Stop the Exploitation of South African Actors: An Urgent Call for Basic Rights! Click here to sign the petition.

The South African Guild of Actors asks that you lend your voice to our call for critical intervention to halt unfair discrimination and gross exploitation in the entertainment industry. We hereby implore the Departments of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC); Employment and Labour (DEL); the International Labour Organisation (ILO); and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to intervene urgently. South African actors deserve fair treatment and the right to negotiate contracts that safeguard our livelihoods.

SAGA has pledged support for our American colleagues as they unite in protest against contract demands that threaten their livelihoods. Over 160,000 professionals have stopped working to send a powerful message to film studios and streaming platforms. As we stand in solidarity with our affiliates we rightly reflect on our own vulnerabilities in the face of powerful corporate forces. 

The members of SAG-Aftra are exercising their legal rights to secure a better deal, while South African actors are denied the same basic entitlements. It is forbidden for South African actors to strike, to form unions, or to engage in collective bargaining, leaving us vulnerable to unfair contract terms unilaterally imposed by producers, broadcasters and streaming platforms.

Our American counterparts benefit from the globally recognised process of collective bargaining. But the harsh reality for South African actors is that any attempt to hold collective discussions can lead to prosecution for collusion and anti-competitive behaviour, and the penalties are high. This stark contrast illustrates the levels of abuse South African actors and other creatives in the entertainment industry are expected to endure. The uncomfortable truth is that a raft of legislation in South Africa sanctions the levels of exploitation actors face; if it’s not competition law that lets us down, the labour law is there to put the boot in.

South African actors are coerced into contracts that strip us of fundamental constitutional rights, and it is time for our democratically elected legislators to sit up and take note. The terms imposed on us surpass the issues at the heart of the current American strike. These contracts seek to grant producers extensive rights over the actors’ image, voice, and likeness, with no compensation in return. Additionally, they aim to deny actors their statutory moral and economic rights, as outlined in the Copyright Amendment Bill and Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill. This dire situation leaves creatives powerless and without recourse.

Key Issues embedded in South African Actor Contracts- with specific examples:

1. Exclusive Use of Image, Likeness, and Voice: Producers assert their right to capture and digitise an actor’s image, likeness, and voice for exclusive future use across any medium, in perpetuity, and without further compensation.

2. Denial of Statutory Rights: These contracts aim to prospectively deny actors their statutory moral and economic rights, which are currently under consideration in parliamentary bills.

3. Freedom of Association: Actors are prohibited from joining any organisation, union, or guild engaged in collective bargaining, effectively curbing our constitutional right to freedom of association.

4. Force Majeure Clauses: Producers reserve the right to declare force majeure if a production fails to secure grant payments from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC), thereby withholding performance fees due to the actor.

The disparity between the rights of American and South African actors is glaring. While American actors stand united in their fight for fair contract terms, their South African counterparts face an uphill battle. It is imperative that we come together to support the cause of local actors, advocating for the right to negotiate contracts that protect our interests and uphold our constitutional rights. Signing the petition is a crucial step towards effecting this change. Stand with us in solidarity as we strive for a more equitable future for South African creatives in the entertainment industry.

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