See Tickets faces threat of strike action amid dispute

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See Tickets and technical union BECTU are embroiled in a bitter dispute concerning working conditions at the ticketing agency, with the union preparing to ballot its members over strike action.

The dispute, which started in October last year, has prompted See to give notice that it wishes to terminate its voluntary recognition agreement with the union. This has been in place since 2007, and enables BECTU to negotiate collectively on issues such as pay, conditions, leave, overtime and pensions.

See’s move to withdraw from the agreement follows the ticketing company’s decision not to renew its membership with the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers, whose members comply with a code of practice aimed at protecting consumers. Its exit from STAR, which came to light this week, makes See the only major theatre ticketing company not to be signed up to the self-regulatory body.

BECTU supervisory official Patrick Styles said he was “shocked and angry” by See’s handling of the situation regarding his members’ concerns over working conditions, and claimed he has been unsuccessfully trying to get the ticketing company to engage in discussions with the union since last year.

“If there is no movement on the part of the company with regard to engaging with us to address our members’ legitimate concerns, we will have to consider balloting,” he said.

Styles said he first wrote to See in October to raise concerns BECTU members had about the workload placed on them and the environment in which they were required to work.

He said there had been limited responses from the company since, prompting the union last week to launch an official disputes procedure to persuade the company to meet and discuss employees’ concerns.

This coincided with BECTU receiving a letter from See, which informed the union that it wishes to terminate the voluntary agreement between the two organisations.

“I met with members and reported the unreasonable and unhelpful stance taken by See Tickets about refusing to enter into constructive dialogue, instead giving three months’ notice of withdrawing from the voluntary recognition agreement,” Styles said. “Members were shocked to hear that their senior management was not interested in discussing the legitimate concerns they have raised, and it was unanim-ously agreed that I should pursue these matters further.”

He added he would be waiting to see if the ticketing company responds within the ten days required under the official disputes procedure launched, but warned that balloting was an option being considered.

“Our members were angry that a senior manager was not prepared to make time to discuss their legitimate concerns. One member passed comment that it was really sad that Mr Wilmshurst [Rob Wilmshurst, See Tickets chief executive] had made the time to read the agreement to establish how to withdraw from it, but would not make the time to discuss the matters they were worried about,” Styles said.

Meanwhile, STAR secretary Jonathan Brown has expressed disappointment that See is no longer a member of the regulatory body.

“I don’t know what the reasons are for them not signing up, but it seems a real pity when the code is there to help protect consumers and they are not participating in it,” he said.

See Tickets was bought by Vivendi for £86 million in 2011.

No one from See Tickets was available for comment as The Stage went to press.