West End performers demand 10% pay rise

Equity wants a pay increase of up to 10% for performers in the West End
Equity wants a pay increase of up to 10% for performers in the West End
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Actors are demanding a “substantial” pay rise of up to 10% from theatre managers in the West End as part of a four-year deal between Equity and the Society of London Theatre.

The union is also calling for the minimum notice period for show closures to be doubled to four weeks, following a number of high-profile, sudden closures, including I Can’t Sing!, which shut with just two weeks’ warning to cast and crew.

This prompted performers to call on Equity to renegotiate the notice period to give actors more time to prepare for a show’s end.

As part of its negations with SOLT, Equity is claiming that producers are in a financially beneficial position due to a recent change in National Insurance status for actors and the forthcoming theatre tax relief scheme, and that they should use these savings to boost pay for performers.

It is now campaigning for a 10% increase to the minimum weekly rate for performers appearing in shows at West End venues with a capacity of less than 800, and an 8% increase for those performing at West End theatres with a capacity above 800. West End performers on Equity contracts currently earn between £518 and £633 per week, depending on the size of the venue.

The most recent pay claim follows a survey of West End members by Equity, in which around 50% performers in plays and musicals said an increase in the minimum weekly pay rate was the most important issue to negotiate with SOLT.

The claim is part of the West End agreement between Equity and SOLT, which is usually renewed every three years. The settlement this time will come into effect from April 2015 and Equity is requesting it lasts for four years owing to the last agreement – which saw weekly pay rates increase by around 2% – covering two years.

Other requests made by Equity include doubling the minimum weekly rate for a swing to £100, improving the length of time a performer can claim full pay if they are sick/injured, and increasing wages for stage management.

The union is also seeking to introduce an additional policy regarding Sunday performances, so that if a second show on a Sunday is scheduled after a contract has started, performances cannot be earlier than 2pm and later than 6pm.

Equity also wants to abolish the current minimum rates for child performers – which stands at 50% of the adult fee – and bring them into line with the same amounts adult performers are paid.

An Equity spokesman said: “We know managers have the money to substantially improve the pay levels of members working in the West End.

“They have been boosted by record box office takings, with more people visiting theatres
in the capital in 2013 than ever before. They are enjoying a tax windfall because they no longer have to pay class 1 national insurance contributions and they are benefiting from government tax breaks on producing shows.”

A spokeswoman for SOLT confirmed that it had received Equity’s claim for the West End agreement and that negotiations were yet to commence.


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  1. Considering ticket prices, the artists whose work we all enjoy seem to earn very little. They have no job security. I hope they get their raise.

  2. With regards to the pay difference between actors and stage management working in houses of a different capacity, this should be balanced out more. Where is the incentive to progress through your career if the reflection of payment for responsibility and experience of a Stage Manager is being much less than an ASM who happens to be working on a different production where the theatre holds more seats?

  3. The first time Equity and the producers came up with the pay scale I thought it was utter madness, can someone inform me what the amount of seats in a theatre has to do with the financial success of a show? Just because you have 1500 seats in the theatre doesn’t mean you going to sell them. As a stage manager I have had ASM’s earing £550 a week for doing 36 hours of moving props from A to B, whilst the stage manager was on only £135 more a week. There is no direct relation between the minimum pay for a performer and stage management the two should be seperated. It’s about time that the the performers got in bed with the investors, surely a pay scale that depends on the financial performance of a show makes more sense, but that would require producers to release sales figures which they seem loathed to do, despite the fact the performers staring out at the audience every night know exactly how well the show is doing. The risk is the creative side of the commercial equation (Writers, Designers, Actors) They should be the ones taking the financial risk, but also the ones who should reap the benefits of the shows success.

  4. Noyzboy, you claim to be a stage manager, but no SM would ever claim that all an ASM does is “moving props from A to B”
    Please think through your argument before posting. It might make it intelligible to the rest of us! Writers, designers and actors don’t take the financial risk, producers do and whilst you may find the pay scale utter madness, everyone else finds it works well and gives fair pay with fair conditions. What on earth is the problem? Remember it is a minimum. You as the SM can ask for more.

  5. Bemused SM, on the subject of pay scale I’m just wondering exactly who you are speaking for when you state that ‘everyone else finds it works well’. Everyone else? Who is ‘everyone else’ that you must know so very well?

    Please don’t be quick to patronise others by asking them to write an intelligent comment when it’s not something you are capable of doing yourself.

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