BECTU targets 'toxic' live events industry culture

BECTU has launched a comprehensive set of standards for the live events industry to fight for better working conditions for its members in the sector.

The campaign comes as more than three quarters (76%) of BECTU members in the live events sector felt pay in the sector needed to be improved by setting minimum rates. A further two thirds (69%) of respondents named long hours as their biggest concern in their roles, followed by almost half (46%) reporting lack of crew welfare facilities and one in three (30%) expressing concern over health and safety.

Workers – often freelancers – who undertake contracts at entertainment events, festivals and conferences as lighting technicians, sound engineers and live events crew have reported widespread mistreatment including long hours, no breaks, bullying and harassment.

BECTU plans to directly address this in its set of standards for the industry, which also covers health and safety, diversity inclusion and provision of appropriate facilities based on the Equality Act’s protected characteristics.

The union is calling for a change in industry culture that can leave so many workers feeling isolated and unable to feel empowered to tackle issues for fear of losing work.

BECTU will be seeking employer support for the standards, which have been based on a charter already in circulation by its reps in negotiations. However, this is the first industry-wide campaign launched to generate wider public awareness and galvanize supporters.

The BECTU Live Events Network standards

  • Ensure shifts are a reasonable length and include reasonable and timely breaks
  • Work towards the development of fair and consistent rates and T&Cs
  • Work towards providing a break space for staff with secure lockers where possible
  • Support workers in getting H&S training and abide by H&S law & HSE guidance
  • Promote zero tolerance to bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviour, and ensure any complaints are dealt with effectively and promptly
  • Aim to create a more diverse workforce (i.e. working towards providing facilities for pregnant/nursing women and access for disabled workers)

BECTU’s lead official on the ‘Set the standard!’ campaign Naomi Taylor said: “Increasing pressure on this workforce, who put in long hour shifts with sometimes little reward, means it’s time to act and say enough is enough.’

‘Freelance life can be tough and often leaves workers too worried about their next pay-check to consider organising with colleagues to demand better.’

‘That’s why we want employers to step up and do the right thing by abiding by these standards to ensure a sustainable industry that does the right thing by its workers who work tirelessly to get big shows on the road.”