British Equity is about to lose its general secretary of 16 years. At age 60, Peter Plouviez is retiring in June because “there are other things I want to do with my life.”
Probably Britain’s best known and most quoted showbiz union official, he was an architect of the one-for-one talent waiver agreement between U.S. and U.K. Equity. That deal, more warmly approved by producers and audiences than actors, has known some rocky times but surely will stand as a legit landmark.
Relations between the two branches of Equity never have been better. “We trust each other,” says Plouviez.
Alan Eisenberg, Plouviez’ counterpart at American Equity, concurs. “There is a lot of trust,” Eisenberg said, “even though there have been problems because actors on both sides of the Atlantic sometimes express consternation about a given exchange. But he’s a witty and intelligent human being, and I’m going to miss him.”
Plouviez has also forged new ties with America’s Screen Actors Guild.
All told, Plouviez has logged 31 years with the union, which was founded in 1930. In his time, initially as deputy general secretary, Equity absorbed the old Variety Artiste’s Federation, a fading alliance of cabaret, circus and music hall performers. Today’s Equity reps talent in virtually every performing field, from movies and tv to opera as well as legit.
Plouviez leaves at a time of mounting concern for the union, which had about 10,000 members when he became general secretary and now has about 46,000, 80% of whom are out of work at any given time. A comparable ratio at U.S. Equity explains why the respective memberships aren’t so thrilled with that waiver agreement.
Brit Equity’s big battle at the moment is trying to reverse or modify a recent ruling that changes the tax status of members who entered the profession since 1987. For this group, travel and “other vital expenses” ceased to be deductible since last April, a ruling the union plans to challenge in the courts as “inappropriate” for casual labor – the typical Equity member’s lot.
The race to succeed Plouviez, by majority vote of the members, pits his deputy (and expected winner) Ian McGarry against two left-wing actors. The result will be declared by April.