Theatre staff set to stage walkout over pay

Theatre productions in London’s West End could come to a
halt next month after backstage and box office staff voted unanimously to
strike over low pay.

Negotiations between theatre union Bectu and the Society of
London Theatres (Solt) have broken down after employers refused to backdate an
improved pay offer to November 2001.

Bectu claim this effectively reduces the value of the award
from 3.25 per cent to 2.7 per cent.

Mark David-Gray Bectu theatre organiser said: “We are
currently in the process of notifying employers about balloting. I think that
the fact our members voted unanimously for industrial action is indicative of
the probable outcome.”

All 38 commercial theatres in the West End will be affected
if the strike goes ahead.

Richard Pulford, Solt chief executive, said: “West End
theatre is only just recovering from the after-effects of the tragic events of
11 September. If the union does take industrial action, it could have very
grave consequences for employment in the theatre sector generally, and for the
wider economy of London.”

The Wyndham Report, published by Solt in 1998 showed that a
total of 41,000 jobs depend on the West End theatres directly or indirectly.

By Phil Boucher

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