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Unrest at Royal Opera House as security staff threaten strike action

London's Royal Opera House. Photo: Rob Moore/ROH London's Royal Opera House. Photo: Rob Moore/ROH
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Summer performances at the Royal Opera House face disruption if security staff vote to go on strike over allegations of bullying and poor pay.

Security at the London venue is outsourced to a company called Corps Security, which determines pay for its personnel. The allegations of bullying also relate to Corps Security, not the Royal Opera House management.

Union Unite represents the vast majority of the 30-strong security workforce at the ROH, who will start voting on whether to take strike action on April 16, with the ballot closing on May 4.

The workers are currently paid at least £10.20 per hour, which is the London Living Wage, and they are seeking a minimum pay rise of 2% for the year and £1,000 to compensate for “years of derisory or no pay awards”.

Unite regional officer Steve Rowlatt said: “We now have an interval to settle this dispute before performances at the Royal Opera House are disrupted in the early summer. We urge the employer not to get stage fright over holding these talks.

“We believe that the opera house would not be able to operate a normal programme of performances without the fully trained and experienced security team at work, as it would put the security, and health and safety, of the paying public at risk.”

A Unite spokesman confirmed that potential strike action would take place between mid-May and mid-August. Productions running during this time include the world premiere of Lessons in Love and Violence, Swan Lake, La boheme and Don Giovanni.

Rowlatt added: “What we have here is a chorus of discontent by a highly trained workforce dedicated to the safety of the opera house’s patrons.

“Years of no or below inflation pay rises have been accompanied by an unpleasant culture of bullying of our members.”

He added: “If strike action goes ahead, it will make history as it will be first strike action by any UK trade union of security officers licensed by the Security Industry Authority.”

The Royal Opera House faced strike action from backstage workers in 2015, which was averted after a new pay deal was reached with union BECTU.

Management of the Royal Opera House’s security is outsourced to Corps Security by a construction services company called Kier.

A statement from Corps Security said: “Corps Security met with Unite, and our client Kier Facilities Management, in March 2018 to reach an agreement acceptable to all parties.

“Proposals for resolving the issues had been put forward by Corps Security to our client and we are pleased to confirm that our proposals have now been supported by Kier. We are now in a position to meet with Unite to discuss the new proposals which we are confident will be acceptable to Unite and therefore avoid the need for industrial action.”

The statement added: “Corps Security strongly disagrees with any suggestion to a culture of bullying. We are committed to find agreements that satisfy all parties and as such offer fully supported processes to hear and resolve any such claims.”

A spokesperson for the Royal Opera House said: “This is a dispute between Unite and our security provider, Corps Security. It would therefore be inappropriate for us to comment on the details of their dispute.

“However, we are working with our contractor to ensure that a resolution can be found as quickly as possible.”

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