BECTU is considering developing a sector-wide policy around equipping theatre staff with body cameras, after it emerged that some West End venues had begun giving them to ushers as a security measure.
The union, which represents front-of-house staff, said it had questions about how footage will be stored and used, and will look to create a sector-wide policy that venues can employ if they want to roll-out body cameras.
FOH staff in several of London’s theatres are being fitted with cameras in order to tackle increasingly aggressive behaviour from audiences and help defuse confrontations, it was announced last week.
The Society of London Theatre has partnered with security camera company Calla to introduce body-worn cameras to individuals working on shows, including ushers, senior managers and security staff.
Now BECTU has said it is looking to develop a policy around the use of body cameras if it is to be more widely adopted by theatres.
BECTU assistant national secretary Helen Ryan said the union had some questions over the practicalities of fitting individuals with recording devices.
“Obviously, if staff feel threatened, then we welcome anything to tackle that. But we need to know a little bit more about where the data is going to be stored, how long it’s going to be stored for, and how people access it,” she said.
Ryan added: “We will be looking at some sort of policy [around body cameras], which isn’t to poo-poo their use at all, it would be to protect the staff who are in the building.”
She said a policy was already in place for CCTV cameras in theatres and that any guidelines around body cameras are likely to be similar.
Body cameras are already in use in other sectors, such as for the police and ambulance service, as well as on public transport, with Virgin Trains introducing them for frontline staff last year.
Ryan said BECTU would be researching the policies relative unions for these sectors have in place when developing one for theatre.
Since the revelation that theatres have begun piloting body cameras, ushers have shared some of the experiences they have faced working in theatres, including both verbal and physical abuse.
Ryan said she had become aware of increasing levels of violence among audience members and towards FOH staff, but added that the frequent use of zero-hours contracts and low pay meant many are too afraid to speak out.
She said: “From talking to colleagues, it sounds like they put up with it because they’re worried about raising the issue. We have a zero-tolerance policy about harassment and that should apply to the public as well, so we will be pushing this going forward.”