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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
RSC staff call off planned strike
RSC
Plays by the RSC at Stratford were under threat
Production workers at the Royal Shakespeare Company have called off a planned strike.

The company's technical staff were planning the walkout at the company's base in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, over redundancies.

Officials from the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (Bectu) called off the strike after an eight-hour meeting with management on Thursday.

But Bectu has not ruled out strikes on future Thursdays and Saturdays, if a revised redundancy package is not accepted.

The Saturday walkout would have halted performances of Julius Caesar and Hamlet.

Members, who number around 250, are due to meet on Friday afternoon to decide whether future action will take place.

Relief

Bectu supervisory official Willy Donaghy said: "It was in nobody's interest to cancel the shows on Saturday, but obviously, if the members are not happy with the package on offer, there is no guarantee they will not strike on future occasions."

RSC spokesman Roger Mortlock said the company was "incredibly relieved" as performances would have been cancelled.

"We hope the members will accept the revised package and we realise that the threat of future action is still looming," he added.

Almost 90% of members of Bectu had agreed to industrial action in a postal ballot.

RSC's A Russian in the Woods
A scene from RSC's A Russian In The Woods

The walkout would have involved lighting staff, stage crews, wardrobe employees and technical workers.

The union says about two-thirds of technical staff at the company could lose their jobs if plans to abandon the fixed Shakespeare season at Stratford-upon-Avon go ahead.

Changes

Chris Foy, managing director of the RSC, said voluntary redundancy had meant it had been able to reduce the number of people affected by cuts by more than half.

Up to 60 jobs would be lost in Stratford as a result of the changes.

Mr Foy said the changes were "vital to the future health of the company".

"We want the RSC to remain fresh and relevant to a new generation of theatregoers," he said.

The RSC wants to concentrate on its Stratford base and touring. It intends to pull out of its London centre at the Barbican arts complex.

Bectu members at the Barbican are set to be balloted for industrial action later this month.

In a separate dispute, actors' union Equity is talking to its members about possible action over what they say are unfair payments for those who star in feature films.

The union says unlike America, actors in the UK get nothing above a fixed payment, even if a film turns out to be a success.

The union is seeking members' views and is holding a meeting to discuss the issue on Sunday.

See also:

13 Jul 01 | Arts
Strike ballot at RSC
28 Mar 01 | Arts
RSC: Shakespeare and beyond
28 Mar 01 | Arts
RSC eyes new home
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