Page last updated at 16:04 GMT, Thursday, 17 September 2009 17:04 UK

Unions fight for lap dancing jobs

Pole dancer
Equity says dancers should not be classified as sex workers

Trade unions are calling on ministers to review plans to cut the number of lap dancing clubs, warning it could put many performers out of work.

Under proposed new laws, the clubs will be reclassified as "sex encounter establishments", with owners having to pay up to £30,000 for a licence.

But the actors' union Equity has said dancers should not be put into the same category as sex workers.

The TUC conference in Liverpool backed a motion urging a government rethink.

The government has been under pressure from campaigners and residents' groups to tighten up the planning laws to reduce the number of lap dancing clubs.

Under the current laws, introduced by Labour in 2003, plans for such clubs in England and Wales are treated little differently from those for restaurants, coffee shops or ordinary bars.

The result has been a rapid increase in the number of clubs on high streets - sparking anger from some residents and claims they are being used as a venue to sell sex.

But the Lap Dancing Association, which represents about a third of the clubs, has been campaigning against a change in the law, arguing they are already tightly controlled and that it is "unfair" to claim they are part of the sex industry.

And Equity has said its members who work in such clubs fear the proposed new law will reduce their employment opportunities and make them more vulnerable when they do work.

The union has also voiced concern that the new rules could have an impact on popular musicals and shows in which performers take their clothes off, including "burlesque" shows, which have become popular in recent years.

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