A “radical” overhaul of the existing commercial and subsidised contracts for regional theatre is being called for to bring together pay and terms under one single agreement.
The proposed new, single contract – which would call on producers with the highest levels of public subsidy and largest box office paying the most – would place an emphasis on more family-friendly working conditions.
Equity is behind proposals for the new contract, which includes demands for a five-day rehearsal week and other changes aimed at creating a better work/life balance for actors and stage managers.
The key demands in the claim are:
The union’s organiser Paul Fleming told The Stage the demands were “radical and bold”.
“In an industry that wants to improve the lot of parents and carers, employers have to accept that members deserve compensation when they work a six-day working week. Working 20% longer than most workers should mean 20% more holiday – or pay in lieu if it can’t be given,” he said.
Fleming added: “Reducing working hours, and consequently the potential overtime if they are exceeded, [should] get producers thinking about better scheduling and respecting the work/life balance of stage management and performers.”
The new contract would be similar to that used by UK Theatre and the Musicians’ Union, under which terms and conditions exist under one agreement, with rates that reflect the means available to a producer.
The claim has been submitted to UK Theatre and would simplify the situation for employees who are working on a production that moves across both the subsidised and commercial sectors.
The proposed new £300-a-week allowance would replace the subsistence and touring allowances currently used in both sectors, and would be applied regardless of how long a show runs at a venue and whether or not a production tours.
Equity said that in a poll of its members on this subject more than 60% had called for the flat £300 rate.
The proposals also focus on improving conditions for understudies and swings – with responsibility payments either doubling or increasing by 38% – while there would also be better provisions for stage management, including more transparent buyout clauses.
UK Theatre, which represents employers, cautioned that theatres were operating in difficult financial times and that this would have a bearing on any final deal.
A spokeswoman said: “Equity has accurately described its claim as being ‘bold’, ‘radical’ and ‘ambitious’. UK Theatre is confident that Equity is aware that theatres across the UK are operating in challenging economic conditions and that this will be a key factor in arriving at an outcome that serves our shared ambition to secure a sustainable theatre industry for all.”
Plans for the single agreement follow Equity’s claim for a new West End contract, which also seeks to make work more feasible for actors and stage management teams with families and caring responsibilities.
This includes the banning of rehearsals on Sundays and limiting initial rehearsal periods to Monday to Friday.