by Tim Lezard BECTU has given West End theatre employers ten days to offer its members a decent pay rise or face strike action. In a ballot result yesterday, 97.8% of members rejected a 1.8% pay offer, saying they wanted 6% to reflect the 11% increase …

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, BECTU, UK unions,

West End Wickedby Tim Lezard

BECTU has given West End theatre employers ten days to offer its members a decent pay rise or face strike action.

In a ballot result yesterday, 97.8% of members rejected a 1.8% pay offer, saying they wanted 6% to reflect the 11% increase in box office sales.

SOLT, the employers’ association which represents theatre owners and producers across the commercial West End, and which is led by companies responsible for the highest earning shows in the sector, has been invited to return to talks with a serious pay offer with no strings attached.

In a letter to SOLT, BECTU has warned that the strength of the vote to reject the current pay offer represents a mandate to run an industrial action ballot if a significantly improved offer is not tabled by the end of October. The pay review anniversary date has now passed (1 October) and the union’s claim was submitted in July.

BECTU national official Patrick Styles said: “Whilst we remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement, what is clear is that a ballot for industrial action will follow if management fails to address our claim.”

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 trade paper 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.”

BECTU general secretary Gerry Morrissey said: “It really is beyond belief that employers responsible for shows turning over millions of pounds are ignoring the importance of the London Living Wage to their staff.

“The majority of our members working in West End theatre live in London and are exposed to all of the costs of living and working in the West End. Low pay is a harsh reality for the majority of staff in West End theatre and for our members that really is the biggest show in town.”

One BECTU rep said: “The theatre companies don’t seem to understand that it is our skill, elbow grease and experience that make the West End such a massive tourist attraction and money spinner. We are professionals who deserve to be paid fairly and treated seriously.”

Meanwhile an usher said: “I read an article about ‘ENDIES’ – people employed with no disposable income or savings. I suppose that makes me a West Endie. I am broke by the time I get paid.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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