Ballot on SOLT pay offer

30 June 2022

Bectu is recommending that its members vote to reject the Society of London Theatres’ (SOLT) proposed pay offer.

Following consultation with Bectu representatives earlier this year, Bectu submitted a claim for 11% consolidated increase and a proposal that SOLT agree in principle to extend the scope of the SOLT/Bectu agreement, which covers West End theatres in London, to include grades that are not currently included.

Although the Variation Agreement currently remains in operation, SOLT has responded to the pay claim and is proposing a 10% increase to the minimum rates in the agreement.  However, a number of strings are attached to the pay offer. The Bectu negotiating team and representatives have discussed the offer and are recommending that members reject it.

Bectu is running a consultative ballot, closing 12:00 noon on 11 July 2022. Further information has been sent to affected members via email.

Why Bectu is recommending a vote to reject

Key issues that mean Bectu cannot recommend this offer to our members include:

Agreement to operate to October 2025

SOLT proposes that, other than the minimum pay rates and the Special Technical Requirements, there will be no further review of the SOLT/Bectu Agreement until 2025. This includes the extension of the agreement to cover those grades that are currently not included and other issues we have been clear need to be urgently addressed, such as the long hours culture, 6-day working and work life balance.

Covid Variation Agreement

Bectu is opposed to the SOLT’s proposal that it could roll out the variation agreement again should there be a future pandemic. The Covid variation was agreed by members at a time when there was a furlough scheme in operation; there is no assurance of a furlough scheme in a future pandemic. SOLT is asking us to sign a blank cheque and we do not believe that this proposal is in members’ best interests.

Sunday working

Bectu members accepted the Covid temporary variation regarding Sunday working in a genuine attempt to help the industry get back on its feet. Sunday shows continue to impact our members, not only in terms of reduced income, but on family and social life and loss of other casual work that tops up their income.

Bectu made it clear to SOLT that our members would not accept a proposal that included Sunday working, unless it was to revert back to double time with the opt out. We are therefore disappointed that the pay offer includes Sunday working to remain at 0.5T on top with no opt out and believe this will be unacceptable to our members.

Special Technical Requirements

SOLT’s offer seeks to confirm many duties as ordinary that pre-pandemic, Bectu would have negotiated under the clause in the Agreement for an additional payment or bonus.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said:

“Whilst a proposed 10% increase to the minimum rates may be eye catching, this offer comes with unacceptable strings attached.

“We recognise how difficult the current financial climate is as the theatre industry continues its Covid recovery and we appreciate what some employers did during the lockdowns to look after staff. However, we cannot recommend this offer to our members. They have stepped up throughout Covid and beyond to help the industry back on its feet, with significant impact on their home and social lives and mental health. We are disappointed that not only does this offer fail to address several of the pressing issues we’ve consistently raised, including the long hours culture, 6-day working and work/life balance, the offer would effectively close the door on addressing them for 3 years.

“We’ve been clear that many theatre workers are at breaking point and it’s not just about poor pay and rising living costs. Unless the industry meaningfully addresses its long hours, low pay and work/life balance issues the talent drain in theatres will continue. We cannot expect workers to remain ‘for the love of the job’ when there is better pay and better-balanced working lives to be found elsewhere.

“We are reaching a point that unless there is a substantial and meaningful increase to basic salaries and the long, unsocial hours and weekend working with no opt out are addressed then the skills shortage will reach a tipping point. We need an agreement that appropriately addresses our members’ concerns and is fit for purpose for a modern society and robust industry that takes care of its staff.”

For media enquiries contact Josie Emanuel: [email protected]