01/05/2017 10:58 SAST | Updated 01/05/2017 11:25 SAST

Union Calls For Transformation Of Entertainment Industry

"It's time that artists get permanent contracts with benefits."

Gallo Images/Grant Pitcher

The entertainment industry is known for its glamorous nature, but behind the scenes of the red-carpet events, exclusive parties and the fame, lies hard work and a dark world of dishonesty, exploitation and struggle.

As the world commemorates International Workers' Day, the Entertainment Catering Commercial and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (ECCAWUSA), has called for transformation in the entertainment industry.

Speaking to HuffPost SA, the union's Mogomotse Maswadi said the lives of workers have not changed significantly since 1994.

"Power to control the economy still lies in the hands of a few. The same applies in the entertainment space. Artists have very little say and often get used by established production houses for next to nothing," said Maswadi.

He said entertainers are workers and their rights are often overlooked.

"Actors for example, have to work under unbelievable contractual conditions. Producers can chop and change them as they wish. They can be fired at any time without proper notice periods and be out in the cold in a second. What then happens to the families they have to take care of? This is why we need transformation in that industry. For artists to have the freedom to plan their lives and have a sense of security," Maswadi told HuffPost SA.

He said his union has plans in place to launch a campaign that will call for actors, presenters and artists to be given permanent contracts with benefits.

"People see these artists on TV and think life is great for them. There is, however, a lot of pain behind the scenes. Artists are not protected and once a producer decided on their fate, it's final. They have no one to turn to and it is time that we change that. They need to have as much rights as any worker in South Africa and the time is now," said Maswadi.

Maswadi said transformation in the entertainment workplace should form part of existing conversations about the rights of workers at large.

In August 2014, 16 actors were axed from popular SABC1 soapie, Generations, following a protest action due to several grievances including issues around royalties.

The show's creator and executive producer, Mfundi Vundla, told the media that the actors were demanding three-year contracts which he wasn't prepared to enter into.

Vundla told radio host Anele Mdoda that he could not give the actors three-year contracts as he needed the liberty to be able to write them out should he either run out of stories or due to bad acting.

Despite being dubbed a dog-eat-dog territory, the entertainment industry remains a dream for many.

A 20-year-old actress, who did not want to be named, told HuffPost SA "the big break" is what makes the hardships worth it.

"I am new in the industry and I have seen how much work that goes into proving one's worth. It's unfair for us to expect producers to keep us on shows even when we are not performing at our best. I do hope for transformation, someday, but I don't think we should hold our breath for immediate changes anytime soon," she said.

Maswadi said his wish is to have a workspace that is transformed and has equal rights for all workers.

"I wish everyone in South Africa a happy May Day. The struggle continues and the fight is not over," he said.