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27 February 2013

Top theatre shows could be hit by industrial action as BECTU ballots members.

The move comes after late-night ACAS talks aimed at resolving a number of disputes between Ambassador Theatre Group and BECTU broke down on February 25th.
ATG management were accused by the union of sabotaging the talks by insisting on a cut of thirty minutes in the minimum call for front-of-house workers, which was agreed as three and a half hours last September. Backstage workers were also facing a controversial enforced move from weekly to monthly pay.
BECTU official Pat Styles, leading the talks, said: "I cannot comprehend why, after 10 hours of discussion, ATG would suddenly demand a change to the agreement on front-of-house staff calls, knowing that this would hit some of the lowest paid workers in the company.

"If we can't trust the management to honour an agreement they freely entered into only months ago, how can we trust anything they say?", continued Styles.

ATG owns 41 theatres across the UK, with 12 of them in London's West End, including the Lyceum, Victoria Apollo, Piccadilly, and Savoy.

The union has slammed the high-rolling pay packets of ATG's owners and directors. The biggest shareholder is a private equity partnership whose members include the investment arm of Barclays Bank, and a holding company registered in the Cayman Islands.

In 2011/12 ATG, chaired by ex-BBC Director General Greg Dyke, made a profit of £15.5 million on turnover of £111 million. Its managing director, Nick Potter, took home nearly £412,000. Many of the front-of-house staff covered by the BECTU agreement are on £6.45 an hour.

BECTU agreed to the ACAS talks after unsuccessful talks with ATG over the planned changes to contracts. Pat Styles said: "The union was keen to resolve the dispute at ACAS, but we saw the company snatch a solution off the table at the last minute."

 Plans for industrial action will not be decided until the strike ballot has got underway, but the union has already warned theatre-goers that they should check in advance whether the shows they have booked might be hit. Top London shows including Lion King, Wicked, and Let It Be could be affected if industrial action goes ahead.