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Single Status Council Theatres


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I would like to contact anyone working in council run theatres re Single status agreements.

We have been told that all BECTU and TMA agreements are off and we only work under the terms of the single status agreement.

The biggest problem with this being no more getouts.

If anyone has information about this I would like to hear from you please.

If anyone would like to contact me direct instead of on here my e-mail address is ian.lemmon@peterborough.gov.uk


Thank you for any help or advice you may be able to give.

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Single status was large implemented in Scotland over the last couple of years by most local authorities, including our one. While it involved lengthy consultation with unions etc, in our case this would have been restricted to the usual ones – Unison, GMB etc – and I am not aware it involved BECTU anywhere, but could be corrected on this if anyone knows better.


The first thing to checkout would be that situation – will your authority allow BECTU to represent you.


Single status grinds slowly but inexorably, and cannot ultimately be resisted as the employers can claim that they are merely implementing the law. I was fortunate in that my job, and those of several other theatre-based personnel, was granted “unique” status. That meant that I didn’t get chucked in with loads of other manual or office workers in cleansing or education etc for a generic assessment of my worth. My job was assessed individually and I was given a ranking and therefore a grade. Suffice to say I disagree with this and filed appeal papers over a year ago and am still awaiting a hearing.


So another possible fruitful line of enquiry is about "unique" status for people involved in such a specialised field of employment, albeit within the public sector.


With regard to get-outs and agreements, we had phased them out and ended up with only one staff member claiming them. We then negotiated a local buy-out agreement with him via his Union [unison]. This was completely separate from the single status process but would probably have happened as a result of it anyway.

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Hello, Ian,


I work in a place that has been through the single status machine. For a while before that, though, the council tried to duck out of paying get-outs, since they’d got it in their heads that manual labourers – and casual ones, at that – were getting £30 an hour for working. Why, that’s nearly as much as the section head!!


I had years of pressing the point that, since we are a touring house, and since visiting companies came in on a contract that required them to take care of the get-out payment, then the council didn’t actually pay the get-outs; they merely acted as an agent that collected the get-out payment from a visiting company via the contra, and passed it on to us. Eventually the penny dropped, and we get get-outs for shows where the council can recover the cost via the contra. I still have to go through the argument every 18 months or so, whenever some new broom attempts to sweep through the wages department. That's no good if you're a producing house, I suppose.


We negotiate cash terms with local amateur groups, and since you could be a tax fraud inspector for all I really know :) , it is on the understanding that they pay their share of any VAT and NI due, while my lads sort out their own tax. Local dancing schools can often take longer than a professional’s box set to get rid of, but they get away without paying anything beyond the normal hourly rate, since my management don’t seem to want to have to have the argument with them. Having seen how much money these people rake in on a dancing school I’d make the buggers squeak!! There is also a feeling among management that, since dance schools don’t bring in sets, as such (but use the theatre’s stock tabs etc) then there isn’t really an “out” to do. I have to say that that’s not the feeling of anyone who has to roll up our dance floor at midnight.


The “agent” answer is worth a try since it worked for me and, if their objection is paying the money, then you can say, “Ah, but you don’t…”


Hope this helps – keep us posted


Stuart Basson

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That sounds like single status and Job Evaluation all in one hit to me

Indeed yes. Although the two processes are technically separate, they ended up being tackled together. A third strand - existing terms and conditions - is still being sorted out so although people have been on new grades since April 07, they are still working on their existing contractual conditions.

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Just to perform a feline/avian insertion....



Why is paying more than 3 or 4 times the normal hourly rate for get-outs justified? Is work not just work? Isn't the "hard labour" aspect more than balanced out by the fact that you get to sit down for much of the run?


Would you not rather have a slightly higher rate of pay overall, for all work performed, rather than earning as much as you did all week in one quick burst?


That is, in effect, one of the "aims" of single status.




Just a thought.

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Would you not rather have a slightly higher rate of pay overall, for all work performed, rather than earning as much as you did all week in one quick burst?


For a get-out I'm asking my casuals to make certain sacrifices that include not going out on the shant with their mates before turning up for work; getting up from in front of the box at the very moment that "Match of the Day" starts to do a potentially dangerous job in the middle of a town full of drunks and idiots... an hour and a half, say, at £6.77 per hour simply wouldn't attract anyone of any reliable quality. As I see it, the get-out payment is a compensation for the circumstances under which the work is done, as much as a payment for the actual work done.


Apart from the get-out and four hours on the get-in, there's very little else for most of my casuals to do, here, so it is difficult to see how the get-out money could be spread across the rest of their working week, such as it is. There is of course a tiny bit of "If they want to take it off us, then it must be worth hanging on to" among the lads, too; but they are all intelligent and well-informed enough to have expressed a preference for keeping things as they are, on the occasions that they've been asked.


Would paying a bit more across the board lead to a situation where two people doing the same work on a performance are paid differently, because one of them is going to do a get-out in a few days' time, or would everyone benefit from an enhanced rate, irrespective of whether they are on a get-out team or not?

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Removing the premium for get out could lead to two things quickly and easily, one good, one bad, in my opinion.

1) People will stop being available for ins and outs only, as to make the same kind of money as these people do, they would have to work all week. Many theatres have a few casuals only 'able' (willing) to do the good money work, leaving the show calls to others 'lower down' the call system, who then may not get paid as much.


2) People will stop being available to work through the night on a saturday, as they have a load of better things to do with time having earnt the money they need through the week doing show calls, causing the get out to be staffed by lower experienced staff.


Going to a blanket hourly rate would also cause certain crews to work even slower to make the money up on outs.


Get out is on the way out, with current WT regulation and working practices it is unsustainable, but it needs a potential doubling of staff and a significant increase in pay before the removal will easily be tolerated. I used to earn £15k salary as a full time theatre LX, with get out payment taking my earnings to £34k.


I no longer do that, but were I, my salary would have to more than double before I would even consider losing the get out payment.

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  • 3 weeks later...
With regard to get-outs and agreements, we had phased them out and ended up with only one staff member claiming them. We then negotiated a local buy-out agreement with him via his Union [unison]. This was completely separate from the single status process but would probably have happened as a result of it anyway.


Surely as a Local Authority employee, the get-outs cannot be classed as part of the working week (part of core hours)?


And if so, aren't you now in the position where your employees and crew can just walk away at the drop of the curtain, leaving you noone to perform or supervise get outs?

I certainly wouldn't want to be in the position of taking money away from people who will then be free to walk after their 35 or 37 hours regardless of whether it's the middle of a show or not!


Not that great a position to be in, unable to guarantee a get out crew to a client, or even being able to enforce working them on your employees.

And if you are in a Local Authority venue, you have no chance of being able to contract a pro crew - the ones who charge going rates, not the local guys who work for hourly rates - because your wages dept will never be able to understand the concept of a theatre crew as a proper "supplier".


Perhaps the Local Authority venues would do well to consider some of the factors that the implementation of "Single Status" will drag up -


"If the tradesmen and office workers are finishing at 4:00pm on a Friday mate, then so are we..."

"Council rules state that flexi-time cannot be worked before 8am or after 7pm..."

"Oh it's not flexi-time working we do is it?, In that case flexible working hours are supposed to be at the EMPLOYEES convenience, not the EMPLOYERS.."


And just how have/will they mange to draw any sort of similarities or comparisons of a stage manager, chief LX or any other "coalface" Council Theatre employee and the people who sit at desks?

We do paperwork; manual work; H & S; face to face with clients and members of the public, assume responsibility for peoples safety in most areas (often forced upon us by management who really should know that as a manager THEY are responsible for everyone and everything in their venue whether they were there at the time or not!); perform complicated mathematical equations to calculate power draws, load bearing factors etc; are forced to remain in position during shows and often rehearsals unable to get up from our "desks" to stretch legs or go to the loo, have to hold concentration for extended periods during performances and rehearsals.......


If Single Status was/is implemented properly then basic rates for "technical employees" should be sky-rocketing while management wages fall.


It's a great big can of worms that few people at Local Authority management level has even considered for their venues which have been operating on "unique" agreements for years. That "Big Red Book" has an awful lot of stuff in it that the Single Status won't just be able to roll over - especially with the Unions being further divorced from political bodies these days, and as such having less vested interests than they maybe used to.

As for refusing to recognise certain unions (Bectu, Equity etc) - isn't that outwith a Local Authority's jurisdiction?

Local Authority's would also do well to remember that while they may not (in many cases) be TMA members, they can still be "blacklisted" for TMA shows.


So think on Councils, think on...

You may not be "operating" many Theatres soon, because we'll all go and work at the new "Musical Theatre" schools that are cropping up - then they won't be lying about the "industry experience" that the 18 year old dance/singing/technical workshop leaders have.....

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In my experience of this process, the closest equivalent the Council could understand was IT technicians: often required to work unusual hours, performing manual work as well as highly complex technical work, etc etc. The parallels are quite clear. We're not as unique as we might hope we are....


The venue I worked at gave a "buy-out" for unsociable hours - a % bonus on top of the regular paycheck, and get-outs were very certainly part of regularly scheduled hours.


Our wages department had no problem with the concept of contractors. When I was back there, I was treated as a contractor while acting as the TM.


What you need is someone in the TM position who understands how the council thinks, and someone who also gets what the theatre is trying to do. There are plenty of people who are able to navigate these seemingly incompatible worlds and make the systems work for both. That's what I do, for a start!

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Can I come and work for you then please Bryson!


At my place, then TM is an "M" in name only, continually rod roughshod over by the manger and her lackey, the operations manager - neither are present at more than 10% of performances a year!

And neither of them believe that they remain resonsible for the safety everyone in the building regardless of whether they are performers, patrons or 'ployees!


As an example, at last year's panto when the issue of FOH staff not escorting very young children (under 9's) all the way up the stairs to the stage with an open pit was raised; the manager's reply - once they're on the stage, they're the actors problem!! :D


No love, we are all YOUR problem, you're the manager!

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Well my consultancy rates are very reasonable...it's just the travel costs that are a bit steep! :angry:


Unfortunately, individual incompetance or apathy can indeed stymie the process for you, but that doesn't mean that Single Status is intrinsically a bad thing - it can lead to a overall raising of annual income for technicians, and makes it fairer for those who only get the "crappy" calls.


Linking to the "why are followspots always really bad" thread, this means that actually, the product will be better, too...

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