Backstage and front-of-house staff are being urged to vote in favour of a pay offer from West End managements that is less than half the increase they originally demanded.
In August, backstage and front-of-house union BECTU announced it was seeking a one-year deal for West End theatre staff that included a 9% pay rise.
At the time, BECTU said it had submitted an ambitious claim that was justified by the increasing cost of living in the capital.
However, after “intensive” negotiations with the Society of London Theatre at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service failed to secure an agreement, members will now be balloted on a significantly reduced proposal.
It sets out a 3.5% increase for 2017/18, and the same again for the following year, with a 2.5% rise in 2019/20. Under the offer, the third year’s deal would be subject to the Consumer Prices Index inflation rate to be announced in September 2019. If CPI varies by more than 0.5% in either direction, the offer will be adjusted accordingly.
BECTU is describing the deal as an “improved offer”. Assistant national secretary Helen Ryan said: “It’s a gamble from both sides, but it does afford some protection in times of uncertainty.”
She told The Stage that BECTU had not initially wanted another three-year deal, and had reached “stalemate” with SOLT, meaning they progressed to talks at ACAS.
“We weren’t keen on a third-year deal. If we had to have one we needed to have some sort of underpin on the deal, because nobody knows what’s going to happen with inflation with regards to Brexit,” said Ryan.
The union is now recommending members approve SOLT’s offer, including the third-year guarantee, in a ballot that opens today (October 27).
If members vote in favour of the deal, it would be backdated to October 2, 2017.
It is the first time BECTU has renegotiated pay for its West End workers since 2014, when strike action was narrowly averted after months of collapsed talks.
The ballot is a vote only on the pay element of the claim. Other issues, such as reclassifying stage door keepers so they fall in line with stage and electrics department, are still subject to ongoing discussions.
It is hoped that all elements of the negotiation will be concluded by December 6.