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Globe responds to strike with cut-price tours

Shakespeare's Globe in London. Photo: Lance Bellers/Shutterstock

Shakespeare’s Globe is to slash the cost of tours at the venue by 26% when guides begin two days of strikes later this month.

As previously reported by The Stage, tour guides who are members of backstage union BECTU will strike on May 18 and June 1 [1], when the venue will make use of specially developed audio guides instead.

The cost of these audio tours will be £10, including access to the venue’s exhibition, compared with the £13.50 charged when tour guides lead visitors around the theatre.

A spokeswoman for the Globe explained that the audio guides feature narration by Naomi Frederick, who played Rosalind in the 2009 production of As You Like It.

She said: “The audio-guide content covers all the key points that we normally communicate to our visitors via the guides’ tours. This includes the historical background to playgoing in Shakespeare’s London, the origins and development of today’s Globe organisation, notable features of the Globe Theatre design, and how it can be used and developed for theatre and educational purposes.”

The spokeswoman added that pre-booked groups would be briefed on “further plans to mitigate the impact of strike action on our visitors over the next few days”.

Currently only eight BECTU member guides are scheduled to work on May 18, and the rota for June has not yet been set. In total, there are 38 tour guides who are members of BECTU who work for the theatre.

The dispute goes back to the end of last year, when BECTU submitted a pay claim for the guides, increasing from £11.24 an hour to £13.50 an hour, alongside further rises over the next three years. The Globe said this amounted to a 20% pay increase this financial year and a total rise of 64% over three years.

“The Globe has consistently maintained that the guides’ pay claim is unrealistic for an unsubsidised not-for-profit organisation, is out of line with our policy to pay at median market levels and is inconsistent with the salaries of other Globe staff,” the spokeswoman said.

She added that the theatre was “naturally disappointed” that the guides had opted for strike action rather than engaging in a salary benchmarking exercise proposed for the summer.

“We maintain that such an exercise is the only way of establishing a fair market rate for guides’ pay that takes into account all employment factors. The Globe has, however, been fully prepared to consider other means of establishing a fair rate for guides’ pay, but regrettably no viable alternative methodology has been proposed by BECTU or the guides,” she said.