West End performers demand 10% pay rise
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.