House of the Dragon hit with backlash for continuing filming despite SAG-AFTRA strike

UK law prohibits Equity union from legally calling a strike in support of SAG-AFTRA

Meredith Clark
New York
Friday 14 July 2023 05:31 BST
Oppenheimer actors walk out of UK premiere as Hollywood stars join writer strike

House of the Dragon is set to continue filming in the United Kingdom this summer despite the Screen Actors Guild strike - due to local union rules.

The second season of the HBO series is likely to proceed with production as scheduled, Variety reported on Thursday (13 July). The cast of the Game of Thrones prequel is primarily composed of British actors working under Equity contracts, rather than SAG-AFTRA. As a result, Equity members aren’t legally allowed to strike in solidarity with the US union, according to the outlet.

Moments before SAG-AFTRA joined the ongoing writers strike, Equity shared its actors strike guidance with members on Thursday, citing that the British acting union will “stand in unwavering solidarity” with the Hollywood trade union. However, Equity members are still required to “report to work” as British legislation prohibits Equity from legally calling a strike in support of SAG-AFTRA.

“Because of existing anti-trade union laws in the UK, SAG-AFTRA members currently working under an Equity UK collective bargaining agreement should continue to report to work,” the memo read. “A performer joining the strike (or refusing to cross a picket line) in the UK will have no protection against being dismissed or sued for breach of contract by the producer or the engager.

“Likewise, if Equity encourages anyone to join the strike or not cross a picket line, Equity itself will be acting unlawfully and hence liable for damages or an injunction,” the union said.

As such, House of the Dragon actors who are SAG-AFTRA members but working in the UK under an Equity contract are required to report to work, despite HBO being a US-based production company.

Similarly, fellow HBO show Industry also operates under Equity rules. According to Deadline, sources close to production have said that filming on Industry will also move forward as planned.

Following news that production on House of the Dragon will proceed as scheduled, many fans took to social media to criticise the show’s decision to continue filming amid the historic strike.

“Yikes that just feels wrong,” said one Twitter user in response.

“Be pretty cool if they didn’t out of solidarity,” another agreed.

“I am sorry but no morals, idgaf about your local union rules,” said someone else.

However, others took the opportunity to defend the actors caught in the crossfire, as those who decide to strike in solidarity have no protection from being dismissed or sued by the producer. Instead, they condemned the UK’s strict anti-trade union laws from allowing House of the Dragon actors to strike.

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“Yeah, because it’s literally illegal for them to strike because of anti-trade union laws in the UK which is bulls***,” replied one user. “if they walk off and join the strike they will be sued for breach of contract.”

“So SAG members working on a show produced by an american company can still be forced to report to work because of UK union laws? this is such a vile loophole,” another said.

The Screen Actors Guild announced on Thursday it will join the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in striking for fair wages. As a result, scripted TV and movie production will cease immediately and picket lines will begin Friday morning. It marks the first time since 1960 that both actors and writers have picketed film and television production companies.

Much like the WGA, which has been on strike since early May, SAG-AFTRA members are demanding the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to increase wages, improve working conditions, and provide higher streaming residuals for writers and actors.

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