BECTU has reached an agreement with UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre over the use of the government’s job retention scheme.
The union, which represents the off-stage theatre workforce, had been seeking reassurance from SOLT and UK Theatre that employers would maximise the job retention scheme, allowing employees on the Pay as you Earn system to be put on leave but still receive 80% of their salary or up to £2,500 a month paid for by the government.
Last week, the union urged the membership bodies to confirm they would take up the government’s offer to ensure as many workers as possible are still being paid while theatres are closed because of coronavirus.
BECTU has said it will continue to work with employees to ensure they “take full advantage of the scheme” and include as many people as possible within the scope of being furloughed.
The union is also challenging companies that are not including overtime when calculating the average wage for staff that have been put on leave, and is calling on organisations to refrain from making any significant changes to the terms and conditions that people are employed under during this period.
Head of BECTU, Philippa Childs, said: “We welcome these agreements with both SOLT and UK Theatre and will be emphasising that employers should be considering what else they can do to support their staff during these challenging times.
“BECTU believes that redundancy or early termination of contracts should only be used as a last resort and we expect employers and companies to maximise the scheme and stand by their employees and workers.
“The crisis should not be used as an excuse by any employer to change substantive terms and conditions and any changes should be limited to the period of furlough only.”
A spokesperson for SOLT and UK Theatre said: “We are pleased to have reached agreement with BECTU and confirm that we will operate the scheme in accordance with the published guidelines.”
BECTU has also launched an online consultation for freelance workers, casual workers, self-employed people and those on zero-hours contracts to highlight what needs to be done to improve their working conditions once the coronavirus crisis is over.
The consultation will form the basis for a campaign for a new deal with employers for freelances and others classed as “precarious workers”.
Childs added: “Over the last year BECTU has been campaigning for Dignity at Work, and the coronavirus crisis has brought many issues we were already aware of into sharp focus.
“Our members and people working across the creative industries have been left with little or nothing to fall back on as the industries they work in have completely shut down.
“There are many questions to be asked about how these industries operate in the future and one of the central issues is how workers can be protected from financial vulnerability.”