Bectu urges theatres to take advantage of government employee income protection

24 March 2020

Bectu has written to two leading theatre employers organisations asking that they take advantage of the government’s offer to pay employees up to 80% of their salaries during the coronavirus outbreak.

Since theatres shut down, just under a week ago, Bectu has been engaged in discussion with UK Theatres and the Society of London Theatres (SOLT), and ATG, for a minimum interim agreement to ensure that staff continue to be paid while measures are in place to control the pandemic.

The initial offer before government intervention was for staff, only those on permanent contracts, to be paid 50% of their basic salary. An offer that Bectu would have rejected as it didn’t cover many people who work on zero-hours contracts and other casual contracts, as well as not being enough to live on.

However, since the Chancellor’s announcement offering to pay up to £2,500 a month for “everybody who is on the PAYE system through a company”, Bectu is asking these organisations to reconsider their proposals.

Bectu is offering to work with the organisations who include, theatre producers such as Cameron Mackintosh and organisations who run venues including Apollo Victoria Theatre, Lyceum Theatre and Theatre Royal Glasgow, who are members of SOLT and UK Theatres to ensure that pay to employees is based on their earning rather than contractual hours to deal with the variety of contractual relationships in the theatre industry.

Bectu is calling for situations such as scheduled closure of shows to be dealt with on a case by case basis. For companies that have cash flow problems Bectu is flagging additional measures such as interest free loans available from today. However, if there is some compelling reason why these mechanisms do not work, Bectu would, as a last resort, be willing to consider a clause for a lower percentage, in negotiations, for a limited period until there is clarity on how quickly money will be given to companies.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said:

“Our proposal is a reasonable request for a minimum agreement but we have been clear to reiterate the that we will continue to lobby and secure better terms with those companies who we believe are able to pay more.

“These companies have a responsibility for their workforce and during these difficult times everyone needs to come together and share the burden of financial responsibility.

“We will continue to lobby on behalf of freelancers as well as PAYE workers to ensure that they are getting the right deal from government and employers using these schemes.”

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