Some of the West End’s biggest shows could be rocked by strike action after the actors’ union Equity demanded a 17% salary for its thousands of theater members.
Union workers expect the claim, which includes offers for more leave, to be rejected by the Society of London Theater (SOLT) and said “nothing is off the table” as part of its campaign for better wages and working conditions, including the strike. .
This raises the possibility of industrial action influencing hit shows that have influenced venues, from The Phantom of the Opera and Pretty Woman to Matilda the Musical and Palladium.
It comes as a union poll that almost half (45%) of West End members have a second job and two-thirds (60%) have considered leaving the industry in the past three years.
A West End artist said he was ready to attack Standard.
Antony, who has worked in the West End for six years and is now on stage in a long-running hit musical, said that in addition to performing six days a week to make up for his salary, he takes two part-time jobs and has recently had to. He left his house because he could not afford the last rent increase.
He said: “After paying my agent 15%, tax and national insurance, I’m left with only enough money to live on.
“I’m at the top of my game and have been for a while and I still have to work two more jobs. This is very tiring.
“I can’t afford to buy tickets to see the show I’m in if I have to pay full price.”
Talks between the union and SOLT will begin in February with hopes of reaching an agreement by April with any industrial action likely to hit theaters around Easter if the parties fail to reach an agreement.
Equity General Secretary Paul W Fleming said it was time for theater patrons to “focus on the workforce”.
“Our members have made a lot of sacrifices during Covid to protect the industry and manufacturers, and it was the right thing to do, and that goodwill now needs to get back in our direction with a meaningful payment agreement.”
He said members are also increasingly concerned that low salary effectively makes theatrical work inaccessible to people without a wealthy background.
“The industry can talk all it wants about improving accessibility, but these people can’t come if you don’t increase the salary.
“The average parent watching their child in a nativity play doesn’t think my child will survive in that industry.”
A SOLT spokesperson said: “As we enter this year’s negotiations, we are keen to develop our already constructive relationship with Equity to achieve a sustainable outcome.”