The Aldwych is one of more than 40 theatres in London's West End in which BECTU members are covered by the SOLT/BECTU agreement. Pic: Stefano Cagnoni.
7 July 2014
Theatre workers in London's West End are seeking a six per cent rise in the pay review due from October 2014. The claim follows extensive consultation with BECTU members and a 10th successive year of rising box office receipts.
In the pay claim submitted last week, the union - which represents permanent, show, ancillary, front of house and box office staff across the commercial West End - emphasises the high cost of living in London as justification for the above inflation 6 per cent claim.
The union also wants employers to set their approach to pay on a new footing by embedding the London Living Wage as the minimum rate payable. The current London Living Wage, set by the Living Wage Foundation is £8.80 an hour. Three grades of staff - working front of house and in ancillary roles - currently earn less than the London Living Wage.
London Weighting needed too, says BECTU
Long-held concerns about rising costs in London also explain BECTU's claim for the introduction of a two-tier London Weighting Allowance. BECTU officials are seeking an annualised LWA of £4228 for staff earning less than £25K a year in tier 1; whilst for those earning £25K or above the claim is for an annualised LWA of £3716. Both rates would apply on a pro-rata basis to reflect part-time and run-of-show contracts which are used widely throughout West End theatre, particularly in backstage and front of house areas.
The pay claim anticipates the end of the 33 month pay deal endorsed by members following extensive talks at ACAS in early 2012.
New clauses for the agreement
BECTU is also seeking to introduce two new clauses into the SOLT/BECTU agreement. BECTU wants to ensure that where third party staff are engaged in a venue covered by the SOLT/BECTU agreement that employment will be on terms no less favourable than those set out in the agreement.
BECTU is also keen to ensure that all technical and craft roles - covering show cues, flying, rigging, building/striking scenery and lighting for example - are undertaken by workers with the necessary training and skills. The union wants a clause which makes it specific that technical and craft duties will only be undertaken by one of the relevant grades set out in the SOLT/BECTU agreement.
Box office receipts well up
In January 2014, SOLT reported an 11% increase on box office receipts in the preceding year, up to £585 million. Attendances were up 4.6% to 14.6 million. At the time SOLT president Mark Rubenstein told The Stage:
"These figures pay testament to the quality, vibrancy and enduring popularity of the London stage, which, despite a difficult economic climate, continues to pull in the crowds thanks to the world-class entertainment on offer and inclusive pricing structures. With the combined box office advance sales also reaching new heights in December, we are looking forward to another year of success stories for our theatres in 2014."
Looking ahead to the start of talks on the 2014-15 review, Pat Styles, national official, said:
"It's clear that the hard work and dedication of our members have enabled SOLT to enjoy record box office revenue and profits year-on-year. In the past seven years gross box office receipts have increased by £184,653,530, an increase of 46%. In contrast, over the same period, the pay increases our members have received stand at 26%. Our members believe it is time for their efforts to be rewarded with a substantial increase in pay.
"It's a fact that SOLT employers would not be enjoying the increased levels of revenue and profit they are achieving without the contribution made by BECTU members. There is clearly room for a substantial pay increase for our members without adversely affecting company profits and this is one of the considerations driving our members' unanimous approval for the pay claim submitted for 2014."
Several West End theatre employers, including ATG, Cameron Mackintosh and Really Useful Group, are represented on SOLT's industrial committee. Talks on the union's pay and conditions proposals are expected to start in August.