Royal Albert Hall rejects staff vote for union recognition

The Royal Albert Hall pictured on the Last Night of the Proms in September 2015.

21 September 2015

BECTU is in dispute with management at the Royal Albert Hall after its chief executive, Chris Cotton, rejected a majority vote by staff for union recognition. BECTU issued the following press release today.

Royal Albert Hall rejects staff vote for union recognition

BECTU has vowed to overturn the decision by senior management at the Royal Albert Hall to reject a majority staff vote in favour of union recognition.

Measure of success

The positive ballot result, announced in early August after a long running recognition campaign and pre-ballot exercises run at the Hall run over three weeks, secured recognition for BECTU on the simple majority previously agreed by BECTU and the Royal Albert Hall as the measure of success.

During the period of the vote 117 votes were cast in favour of recognition with 109 votes against. More than 72% of staff eligible to vote took part in the ballot. The rules governing the ballot were approved by both parties with the assistance of the government-backed conciliation service, ACAS. In addition, the ballot was conducted by ACAS.

Chris Cotton, Royal Albert Hall chief executive, communicated his astonishing decision to reject the majority vote in a letter to all staff on 11 September, five weeks after the ballot result was declared.

In his letter Mr Cotton stated:

“The vote has demonstrated that BECTU does not have the support of the majority of the employees within the Hall, with only 37.5% in favour of union recognition and 62.5% either against or abstaining.”

What Mr Cotton does not reference is his previous agreement to respect a majority vote amongst staff participating in the ballot. Mr Cotton’s disregard for the views of his staff and for the standing of ACAS is made even more offensive by his plan to set up a staff forum in opposition to staff backing for BECTU recognition.

Writing to Mr Cotton to respond formally to this unprecedented turn of events BECTU’s general secretary, Gerry Morrissey, said:

“No amount of spin, nuance, or interpretation of other letters … can change this inescapable fact – the Royal Albert Hall agreed the rules and are now seeking to change the rules. Presumably because they didn’t get the result they wanted.”

Ill-judged challenge

Gerry Morrissey continued:

“ACAS are the respected, government sponsored, impartial and independent body for these issues. ACAS assisted us through the process and were in full possession of the information including the ballot rules.

“Whilst I believe your letter to be a snub to both your staff and to my organisation, I also believe it to be an ill-judged challenge to the integrity and probity of ACAS.”

BECTU has appealed to Mr Cotton to withdraw his letter to staff and to agree dates for discussions with BECTU to take the ballot result forward. If Mr Cotton refuses to abide by the ballot result, BECTU will pursue the matter with the assistance of ACAS and the TUC. 

Gerry Morrissey concluded:

"We never considered that the legitimate and democratic vote of Royal Albert Hall staff would be rejected by management; it should be clear that BECTU will do everything in its power, both industrially and politically, to ensure that the voice of staff, reflected in vote for BECTU recognition, is heard."


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