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Pay for female backstage staff at ENO brought in line with men for first time

ENO's home at the London Coliseum. ENO's home at the London Coliseum. Photo: Andreas Praefcke
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English National Opera is to close the gender pay gap in its backstage staff as part of a historic deal with union BECTU.

A total of 13 women and two men have benefited from the pay review, which spanned technical departments.

The changes mainly affect workers in the costume, wardrobe and wigs department, and were initiated after BECTU members flagged concerns about unequal pay.

While ENO last year revealed its female staff were paid 0.98% per hour more than men, disparities were still reported in some individual salaries.

In most of these cases, women were being paid less than their male counterparts on the same pay grades in the organisation’s technical division.

As part of the review, working conditions were assessed and technical staff have been given additional powers to refuse to work overtime, with a maximum 13-hour working day and limits to the number of weekends worked in a given period.

Helen Ryan, arts and entertainment assistant national secretary at BECTU, said: “We are pleased that the English National Opera has shown great leadership on getting to the heart of this issue and listened to BECTU members and tackled the issue of their gender pay disparity, which has now been resolved.”

BECTU has said that the breakthrough in addressing the pay gap is a result of working with ENO technical director Matt Noddings.

According to the union, staff had previously flagged concerns, but it was only after Noddings’ appointment in 2016 that a pay review was carried out.

The review started in October 2017 and looked at pay rates and disparity across the technical and production departments.

All salaries in costume, wardrobe and wigs were brought in line with those in other technical departments.

Karen Hopkinson, branch chair of the ENO managers BECTU branch, added: “It is incredible that we have broken through the first barrier of gender pay equality within theatre, but this is only the first hurdle and only the first company to right a historic wrong.

“It is no longer acceptable for our work to be deemed domestic and undervalued and we must speak up against these prejudices if change is to happen. I would encourage all of my colleagues within costume, wardrobe, wigs and make-up to feel empowered by this outcome.”

Noddings said that he had encountered a similar gender pay disparity in two other theatres.

He added: “It is vital that the industry addresses this historical disparity. I would like to thank everyone for their patience as we went through the necessary conversations.”

Theatre companies pledge to close gender pay gap as data reveals imbalance

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