Israeli Actors Threaten to Strike Acre Fringe Theater Festival Over Lack of Pay

Annual festival has budget of over NIS 3m, but actors get paid less than minimum wage for rehearsals and nothing at all for performances.

Shaham, the actors union, is threatening to strike the Acre Fringe Theater Festival if the actors who appear in the performances are not paid.

The union first sent a letter demanding that the actors be paid to the Acre municipality, but got no response. It then contacted Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and a number of other officials, including Minister of Negev and Galilee Development Silvan Shalom, as well as commercial companies supporting the festival, such as Bank Hapoalim, and asked them to pressure Acre Mayor Shimon Lankri to ensure that the actors get paid.

The Fringe Theater Festival, scheduled for September’s Sukkot holiday, has a budget of over NIS 3 million, which comes from the Acre municipality. According to Shaham, the actors get paid less than minimum wage for rehearsals and nothing at all for the performances.

When Shaham discussed payment for the performances with the festival management, the latter referred it to the municipality.

The city argued that it cannot monitor the salaries allocated by producers from the funding it gives them, but the union said it is not practical to try to conduct wage talks with each producer individually.

The strike threat comes after Lankri cut off contact, the union said.

“It’s unacceptable that executives of a festival whose budget is over NIS 3 million, and whose officials who are not actors get a proper wage, should expect that the actors, the ones the audience comes for, should work for free,” said Shahar Botzer, Shaham’s director general.

Actor Moshe Ivgi, a member of Shaham’s executive board, added, “The actors choose to appear in the festival performances because they need opportunities to work in their field. But a situation in which their need for work is exploited to the extent that they aren’t paid is intolerable. This evil sickness should be uprooted and they should be guaranteed at least minimum wage.”

The Acre municipality commented, “The city and festival managements want the best for the artists and actors. After we study Shaham’s letter we will respond accordingly.”

Dan Hirsh