Thursday, 13 December 2007

Militant models

Many young girls aspire to be models, thinking they have luxurious, glamorous lives. The reality is so gruelling that a group of British models are joining a trade union to fight for better working conditions.

At the moment they're anonymous for fear of jeopardising their careers by speaking out openly. But they include some top household names who've had enough of being exploited.

They complain of long working hours without breaks, compulsory nude shoots, pressure to be ultra-thin, and much lower pay for male models.

They've been having talks with Equity, the union that usually represents actors and performers.

They get little sympathy from model agencies, who tell them if they don't do what's demanded of them, they won't get any more work and there are plenty more pretty bodies where they came from.

I think the idea of unionising models is long overdue. They often get badly treated because they're so keen to be famous faces they'll put up with extreme pressures rather than settle for a more humdrum job.

Some people sneer at them for wanting such an apparently vacuous existence in the first place, but what they do is no more vacuous than many other jobs. How about advertising, cosmetic surgery or car-valeting?

Anyone who works for a living is entitled to decent working conditions, and if they're not getting them that's exactly what trade unions are for - to confront employers and force them to treat their employees like human beings and not cash cows. Free the catwalks!

Update: The London Independent reports today (Dec 17) that trade unions are being deluged with applications from people in unusual jobs like members of the clergy, roadies, sex workers, reality TV stars and club doormen, and membership is rising steadily. Union membership worldwide has gone up by 20% in 20 years. Workers, particularly those not traditionally unionised, are getting increasingly intolerant of poor working conditions and are joining up.

18 comments:

Manuel said...

Jenny's been away a couple of days and you have the place full of models!

Fair play to them......it'll be the waiters next.....

Nick said...

Yes, the place is full of them but it's strictly business - I'm helping them with their trade union applications. I was a union rep for several years so I can give them some useful advice. Btw, are you in a union, Manuel? If not, you ought to be.

red said...

It's odd, I thought unions were a dying breed. Maybe not...

Nick said...

Oh no, they're just marshalling their forces for the next big advance....

Wisewebwoman said...

Great news, Nick. I used to be fairly anti-union but have revised my thinking with the huge number of abuses going on in industry. I worked for non-unionized companies who treated their employees well with profit-sharing, etc and then my own company followed that trend...always profit-sharing. But Pollyanna has now taken off her rose-tinteds and realized that most employers are not fair, they exploit and abuse.
They need to be unionized and never more so than in the flesh for sale industry.

Nick said...

www, you must have been very lucky with the companies you worked for earlier, because there're so many out there that exploit their staff to the absolute maximum short of blatantly breaking the law. Many companies in the UK are actively trying to deunionise their staff to give the management more control over them.

Hullaballoo said...

Nick, you have made me think. I am not in a union and don't even know if there is one I could join.

I think it is great that models are seeking greater protection.

Nick said...

I've never heard of a union for counsellors and psychotherapists, maybe because so many are self-employed rather than salaried. But a union can be very helpful if you're sacked or disciplined, as they have specialist lawyers to help you fight your case.

Hullaballoo said...

I will find out about unions, there must be something out there.

On a lighter note, why is it that the militant models look like they are doing a very slow and vacuuous hokey cokey?

Nick said...

Hmmm, good question. They also look as if they're shuffling slowly up a queue (but it can't be the queue for lunch, they don't look as if they eat anything). The other thing about models is they always look incredibly po-faced and sullen, as if they've just been told of a tragic death. Or just been told they're not thin enough....

conortje said...

This must be one of the only jobs where men are paid less...interesting.

Nick said...

It's very curious - how do their employers manage to get away with it? Obviously they're in dire need of some tough-talking union reps....

gayƩ said...

Great post Nick, and great news at that. I am so glad that these girls are not just doing what they are told and giving in the pressure of losing jobs. Unions for models is such a wonderful idea. Good on the ones that actually speak up and become part of this move.
I am happy to hear this, thank you. :)
G

Nick said...

Good for you, Gaye, giving your wholehearted support. There are still a lot of people who've never been in unions and wonder if they're really worth bothering with. Especially with all the negative media propaganda about The Winter of Discontent, Bully Boys Holding the Nation to Ransom etc etc.

Medbh said...

Good for them. I wish them success but realistically they'll just be replaced with newcomers who won't ask for benefits.
I can't believe that the writer's strike is still going on and that the industry would let this go on so long. Hollywood wouldn't exist if not for the writers.

Nick said...

Unfortunately you may be right, Medbh, replacing the awkward squad with undemanding newcomers is often what's done to break an industrial dispute.

From what I can gather, the Hollywood writers' strike is still going on because the media conglomerates representing 350 production companies are putting up a united front and refusing to give any ground. Bastards.

gayƩ said...

Unions are not supported by the people who have the money, who are making the money and who don't want to pay more to their employees or cut down on their profits. Damn them!
Incompetent unions in certain industries don't help the cause either.

Nick said...

Well, I wouldn't expect the gainers to support the unions, why should they bother? But that's why trade unions were formed of course, to fight for the losers who provide other people's riches. And as you say, incompetent unions who don't protect their members properly are no help at all.