West End Strike Looms as Ballot Nears Close???
Date: 5 March 2002
The strike ballot for members of Bectu, the union which represents the backstage, ticketing and box office staff in the West End, is well underway. It started 5 March and the deadline for conclusion is 19 March. If the ballot goes in favour of industrial action, a strike could begin as soon as a week thereafter. The union has been in pay rise negotiations for some time with the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), the marketing body for Wet End theatre owners and producers. While an agreement was reached, there has been some discrepancy about backdating pay and the percentage of increase (Bectu rejected a proposed 3.25% pay rise). Backstage work is, on the whole, poorly paid; the average hourly West End rate is just £6.33, with many workers earning much less. SOLT have said any industrial action would do irreparable harm to theatreland, which is only now starting to recover following the collapse in tourism post-11 September. Bectu has defended the right of its members to earn more than "poverty wages". If a strike went ahead, theatregoers would be offered refunds or exchanges on theatre tickets, although not on any ancillary expenses - such as travel or accommodations - for planned London excursions.
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