Offstage workers at Ambassador Theatre Group venues across the UK could receive payouts totalling tens of thousands of pounds, following a tribunal victory for staff at Edinburgh Playhouse.
Earlier this month, members of union BECTU at Edinburgh Playhouse won a long-running dispute with ATG over annual pay rises after a tribunal judge ruled in their favour.
Following news that ATG is not going to appeal the decision, BECTU is now claiming back payments from ATG for workers at 11 other theatres, including the Liverpool Empire, Bristol Hippodrome, York’s Grand Opera House and the Palace Theatre and Opera House in Manchester.
The other venues affected are Grimsby Auditorium, Sunderland Empire, Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre, Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone, New Theatre Oxford and the Princess Theatre in Torquay.
Up to 150 BECTU members at these theatres will be affected, in addition to the 60 staff who are set for payouts from the Edinburgh Playhouse.
There will also be a knock-on effect on non-union workers in the same roles affected by the negotiations, including box office staff, marketing assistants, sales assistants, maintenance staff, technicians and front-of-house supervisors. It is not yet clear how many non-union staff will be affected.
The theatres affected were all previously owned by Live Nation.
In 2008, BECTU agreed with Live Nation that any national pay agreements with UK Theatre would be applied to staff members, in addition to any other pay deals.
This agreement transferred over to ATG when the operator acquired the theatres from Live Nation in 2010.
The national BECTU/UK Theatre increase for 2018 was 3% for certain roles, and 4.7% for others. However, according to BECTU, ATG did not apply the full pay rises to all staff. ATG claimed it did not need to because many already received hourly rates in excess of the national minimum wage.
The tribunal judge in the Edinburgh Playhouse case ruled that staff were entitled to payouts in line with the increases in the UK Theatre/BECTU national agreement. Workers at this venue alone are set to receive tens of thousands of pounds.
This judgement has led BECTU to submit claims to ATG for the other venues, with the union arguing that the pay rise outlined in the BECTU/UK Theatre national agreement, backdated to 2018, should be applied to all staff.
In a letter to ATG, BECTU says that it hopes to reach an agreement without the need for further legal action.
BECTU’s assistant national secretary Helen Ryan said: “This is significant, as it goes to prove that sometimes you can lose track of some of your agreements but actually our members at Edinburgh Playhouse stood up and said: ‘This isn’t right.’
“It will have a significant knock-on impact on those other national theatres, and is especially important at a time when we are in pay negotiations with UK Theatre.”
BECTU’s Scottish negotiations officer Paul McManus added: “The stance taken has demonstrated how vital it is that members across our theatres stand up and fight for the UK Theatre/BECTU agreement.”
ATG declined to comment.