Equity and RevPro collude to stick two fingers up to the voices of the Speaking Out movement

by | 25th September 2020 | acting

Content warning: assault of sexual nature

Oh hi again. Yes, I know, I’ve not been here much lately, but I have something important to say that needs to be heard.

My acting work recently has been mainly limited to playing the hapless Stickman McTaggart in EWW. It’s a role I love, in an industry I love.

Two years ago, I was contemplating which training school to go to. I made the decision to train with Stu and Tarn at EWW after they blew the lid on a series of sexual assault allegations within the British wrestling industry. Their commitment to creating a safe training environment and to kicking the offenders out of the industry was what drew to me to them as opposed to other organisations.

Over this time, I’ve become a very minor figure within the British wrestling scene. Despite not being anyone of significance, what has been obvious to me is that certain people within the industry are known to be persistent offenders. Unfortunately, despite Stu and Tarn’s best efforts to let people know who they were (start at episode 19), get them prosecuted, and weed them out of the industry, certain promotions kept booking these people. Some promoters were even named as perpetrators themselves.

Despite the number of (mainly female) performers coming forward and talking to the police, very few (if any) people were prosecuted. This sent the first message to the remaining predators that they were safe for now.

Part of the reason for a lack of convictions was collusion between known offenders to cover for each other. Another part was the difficulty in prosecuting such cases.

Jump forward to the start of the pandemic, and a wave of experiences appeared on Twitter, many with supporting evidence. This became known as the Speaking Out movement, and extended across the ocean, empowering American performers who had been through similar experiences to make their voices heard too. Lo and behold, many of the same names appeared once more – sometimes on both sides of the Atlantic. Cue another “outcry” from promoters in the British wrestling industry, and lots of companies promising to tidy up their act.

One of those companies was RevPro, based in Portsmouth. A training school that produced a number of big-name British wrestling stars, as well as more than one of the performers named as perpetrators in the accusations earlier this year. Make of that what you will.

Within days of promising to clean up their act, RevPro then announced a recorded show (mid-pandemic) featuring more than one of the accused. At least one of these names had a long history with demonstrable involvement in covering up accusations and making life very difficult for the victim after the event.

Meanwhile, at EWW, we solidified our commitment to safeguarding by launching a series of policies, and a code of conduct:

Imagine my surprise then, when today Equity announced that they had “agreed a code of conduct with RevPro” on all of their social media networks. https://twitter.com/EquityUK/status/1309464824074690561 Now forgive me, but choosing to make your first big announcement within the wrestling industry with a company at the centre of the accusations doesn’t fill me with much confidence. After the Speaking Out movement, where dozens of wrestlers (mainly female) came forward with stories of sexual abuse, harrassment, and inappropriate behaviour, RevPro said all the right things, and said they were tidying up their act. Within days, RevPro re-employed a number of the accused – some at the very top of the card. There was significant evidence behind these claims, but as is often the case in sexual assault and harassment cases, many were not able to prosecute, for various reasons. One victim has even been accused of making defamatory accusations and is having to crowdfund £12k to fight the charges brought against her, which are trying to force her to retract her accusations. While I welcome a commitment to improvement in safeguarding standards, this announcement is a kick to the face of people who spoke out during the movement. This stinks of collusion towards a great bit of press for both RevPro and Equity, but unless there has been a significant change at the top of RevPro, I refuse to believe that this is anything other than hot air. Given their current booking preferences, there is no evidence that anything has changed. While RevPro are far from the only problematic wrestling company in the UK, they are arguably the worse choice to collude with at the present moment. My question is this – how can Equity collude with an organisation that continues to have someone of significant influence on their card that makes a large number of performers feel unsafe? What is your message to the voices of the Speaking Out movement when your first action is to side with a company that continues to support perpetrators? After two years of collusion and cover-up by promoters and the boys club within the industry, this again sends a very dangerous second message to the perpetrators that they will not suffer as a result of their actions. If we see certain individuals booked on one more card for RevPro, that will immediately show that Equity are powerless here. Equity have shown poor judgement by jumping into bed with the first wrestling organisation able to offer an attention-grabbing headline. Equity, in their defence, may point to the fact that a lot of the accusations didn’t lead to prosecutions, but that is the frustration behind the whole situation. That is the reason for the existence of the movement, and indeed the reason that we need safeguarding measures in the industry. Equity have shown themselves not to understand the sensitivities of the British wrestling scene, and in doing so, have undermined their very own commitment to safeguarding. A simple piece of due diligence could have prevented all of this. To say I’m disgusted is an understatement. NB: Critics will rightly point out the vagueness of my comments, and lack of specifics in the detail. Brighter minds will realise that as I was not present at any of the situations mentioned, it would be unwise for me to talk about detail, or indeed even name the individuals involved. Please do not mistake this for a lack of evidence. There is/was plenty of evidence made available on social media, and there are individuals within the industry that have collated much of it and passed it on to the relevant authorities. For me to share details could potentially compromise ongoing prosecutions. Additionally, I do not wish to cause additional trauma to the victims by reliving the events.

Equity’s Response

Many thanks for your email and for approaching us on this very difficult issue. We have worked very carefully over the past few months with Equity members and with wrestling promotions to provide a response to this widespread and deeply challenging problem. Our response has been informed by our previous experience regarding the #MeToo movement and our consequent Safe Spaces campaign.

You will no doubt be aware that the first action the union took was to announce a 5 point pledge at the beginning of August. The pledges are intended to challenge promotions to apply a minimum standard, focusing on specific areas were abuse arose and they also serve as a check list for our members when they are approached to work. The pledges were formulated following several meetings with members and non members who work in the industry. The announcement of the pledge encouraged a number of promotions to begin talks with the union, Revolution Pro Wrestling being one.

Equity has previously agreed two Code of Conducts with Riot Cabaret, a new promotion, and also notably Eve: Riots Grrls of Wrestling. The Codes are there to establish union coverage in a sector where there is no history of trades union engagement and where there is currently an absence of best practice. Union coverage will give the performers access to advice and support and we believe will help establish the same levels of professionalism that are the norm in other parts of the entertainment economy. This requires us to work with significant employers such as Revolution Pro Wrestling. It does not mean that we are uncritical or that we accept what is the current culture of the industry. The role of a union is to challenge employers to do better and to work with performers who they employ to ensure that best practice can be achieved.

The Code of Conduct gives us the tools to hold RevPro to account by providing transparent process for performers to lodge grievances, and for management to discipline and remove those who breach the terms of their agreements. The Dignity at Work policy defines bullying and harassment and what RevPro consider unacceptable work place behaviour and provides a pathway for resolving disputes. We will be monitoring the implementation of the Code and it will be reviewed 6 months for the date of the promotions first live performance. We will work with our members on the shows to ensure they have a voice in this process. If performers have concerns about colleagues or wish to raise a complaint they now have the means to do so and to also have the union’s support when they raise the matter with management. This is a good thing and a major step forward.

If you wish to discuss this further, you are welcome to contact the organiser responsible for agreeing the Code of Conduct, Steve Duncan-Rice either via sduncan-rice@equity.org.uk or by mobile on 07590 486 959.  He will be happy to speak with you.  

I can also confirm that I have no objection to you publishing on your website my response to your blog .

With very best wishes

Christine

Christine Payne
GENERAL SECRETARY

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