West End staff to receive pay increases and flexible working opportunities

West End stage door

Creative practitioners working in London’s West End who are members of the trade union Equity, have voted to accept an agreement in order to receive pay increases and more flexible working opportunities.

The majority (98%) of Equity members who work in the West End voted in favour of the new West End Agreement, which was negotiated with umbrella organisation the Society of London Theatre (Solt).

The deal will increase the Category A basic rate of pay to more than £700 a week, while understudy responsibility payments and wages for dance captains and dance understudies (swings) will also rise; these members could see their salary increase by between 29% and 44%. Stage management differentials will also go up to £65.

The agreement further allows for Christmas Day to be a free day off, without a reduction in employees’ salary or holiday entitlement, and for rights to flexible working opportunities, such as job shares, to be incorporated into contracts.

West End employees will also see improvements to clauses relating to casting, equality and dignity at work. This includes implementing dignity at work policies and procedures, commitments to inclusive casting and improving opportunities for disabled performers, and providing a timely response following auditions. The agreement also covers the clarification of buyouts, to ensure the agreement is not undercut at any point, and a new clause recommending preventative measures on physical shows to reduce injuries.

The accepted deal outlines commitments moving forward, such as working towards a five-day working week during initial rehearsals and compiling a working party to set up a new system for fairly dealing with covering payments in ensemble-led theatre.

Emmanuel de Lange, West End organiser at Equity, said: “This new agreement delivers important improvements in our members’ terms and conditions, reflecting many of the union’s priorities going into the negotiations.

“As well as pay increases, notably for some of our hardest working members engaged as swings, covers and dance captains, this deal takes important steps in reflecting progress in wider society and delivers recommendations of Equity’s recent campaigns: the Manifesto for Casting and our Agenda for Change.

“Commitments have also been made by the managers to further discussions post implementation, which Equity hopes will be fruitful and which will prepare the ground for further changes, which will benefit all members and particularly those with family or caring responsibilities.”

A spokesperson at Solt added: “We are happy with the positive outcome of these negotiations and the new agreement, which reflects Solt’s commitment to being forward-thinking when it comes to our industry’s workforce. We look forward to continuing to work with Equity to make the theatre industry a more inclusive, supportive working environment for everyone.”