the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

28 September 2015

BECTU is calling on all categories of staff at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to join its campaign to ensure that in future years The Fringe becomes a Living Wage festival.

BECTU’s call comes after it received an unprecedented number of representations from staff working at fringe venues and on fringe shows this year complaining about low or no wages, serious breaches of health and safety legislation and/or extremely long hours of work.

First steps

BECTU has now written to Sir Timothy O’Shea, chair of the Edinburgh Fringe Society to seek the support of the Fringe Society in securing fair pay and treatment for the many hundreds of staff who are invaluable in making the Fringe a massive success every year.

BECTU has led the way in campaigning for the Living Wage to apply across all sectors of media and entertainment. Campaigns at the Ritzy, Curzon Cinemas and at theatres up and down the country have pressed the case for the Living Wage with some success in recent years.

The 2014 pay claim at UK Theatres, the employers' body which represents some 200 venues across the country, agreed on a strategy to discuss and deliver the Living Wage within an agreed timescale. 

Scottish government

In Scotland in recent months Scottish organiser, Paul McManus, has held discussions with both the culture minister, Fiona Hyslop, and with the Scottish government’s recently created Fair Work Unit to highlight the plight of thousands of workers across the arts sector who do not benefit from the Living Wage in Scotland. Outside London, the Living Wage Foundation's hourly rate has been £7.85 an hour since November 2014.(The rate is £9.15 an hour in London). 

Following on from these positive discussions, BECTU is providing the Fair Work Unit with detailed information on working practices and low rates across the industry including those from this year's Fringe.

"Further discussions will follow which will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the issues as well as providing collaborative solutions. BECTU ‘s primary concern is that while Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish government are Living Wage employers they do not place any obligations on the arts organisations and venues they fund to be Living Wage employers," said Paul McManus. 

In Scotland BECTU has reached agreements with some arts organisations on timescales for achieving the Living Wage but recognises that ongoing local authority budget cuts make it very difficult for other organisations to achieve this ambition.

Whilst keen to collaborate with arts organisations to achieve Living Wage status, BECTU feels that other groups could be doing a lot more. Paul McManus believes this is an ideal opportunity for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to step up and drive the Living Wage much higher up its agenda.

“Fiona Hyslop and the Scottish government are rightly pushing the Living Wage as a key priority. I believe that the very fact that the Fringe does not employ all the staff who complain of exploitation puts the Fringe Society in an ideal place to drive forward the Living wage agenda across hundreds of venues in Edinburgh.

"I have therefore now invited the chair of the Fringe Society to meet with me to discuss practical ways in which we can work together to make the Fringe into a “Living Wage Festival”.

Workers on the Fringe keen to be part of BECTU's campaign to secure the Living Wage at their venue are encouraged to contact Paul McManus

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