The flash spread of new Coronavirus (COVID19) has taken the world by surprise. Officially declared a pandemic by the World health Organization, this virus has already caused thousands of casualties and, whilst a race against the clock is engaged to develop a vaccine, many countries are taking emergency safety measures to contain its spread, including bans on large gatherings of people.
Whist these measures are of course to be supported, they also have a catastrophic impact on the entertainment industry, as middle to large-scale shows are abruptly cancelled causing performers and the businesses hiring them a considerable loss of income. There is growing concern in the performer community about how these bans will impact on their livelihoods, as audiences are deserting theatres, cinemas and festivals.
Most performers work on a freelance basis and rely on a steady succession of engagements to make ends meet. Many of them do not get the benefit of an employment contract and are considered independent contractors, with limited or no social benefits to fall back on in times of trouble. Even when working under an employment contract, the short-term nature of engagements can make it harder to accrue enough annual entitlements to benefit from annual or sick leave if theatres or sets are shut down – or if performers are forced to isolate for a prolonged time to take care of their health or their families’.
FIA is of course primarily concerned about the safety of fellow performers and society around them and wholeheartedly welcomes measures designed to save lives. Economic considerations should not prevail over the imperative need to limit the deadly outbreak of the virus. However, complying with these measures is going to be very challenging if there is no revenue to put food on the table.
As governments commit additional public funding to help their economies withstand this unprecedented global crisis, FIA and other sister organizations, including industry partners in the live performance sector, are therefore calling for contingency measures to also support the industry and all entertainment workers, regardless their employment status, whose primary source of income is suddenly drying out.