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Union accuses Sydney Theatre Company management of ‘ignoring staff safety’

Union accuses Sydney Theatre Company management of ‘ignoring staff safety’
February 9, 2016

The Sydney Theatre Company has been accused of failing to provide a safe workplace after physical attacks on staff by audience members.

As of last Thursday (4th February), the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union representing STC staff, referred the matter to the Fair Work Commission over concerns that management had been “putting its commercial interests ahead of the health and safety of its staff.”

The MEAA’s concern follows two recent alleged assaults of staff working at the STC, which the MEAA says “have highlighted how vulnerable and sometimes dangerous working with the public can be.”

In the first incident, the MEAA says a female usher was forcibly pushed by a patron attending a performance of King Lear, starring Geoffrey Rush, at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in December.

The usher had been moving along an aisle past seated theatregoers when her walkie-talkie brushed the head of the audience member who then pushed her.

A complaint was made to police but later withdrawn, the union alleges, under pressure from STC management.

The second incident involved a member being forcefully slapped on the back a number of times and then subjected to an offensive gesture.

In both occurrences, the MEAA say staff had followed the STC procedures, and had done nothing to provoke the incidents.

MEAA Director of Entertainment, Crew & Sport Mal Tulloch said the incidents had left staff feeling violated, humiliated and isolated and suggested that the STC had inadequate procedures for dealing with violent patrons.

The union alleges that the perpetrator of the first assault was a season ticket holder and a well-known patron to the STC, which accepted an apology and allowed the person to continue to attend shows.

The MEAA said theatre management did not adequately investigate the incident as required under health and safety laws.

In a written statement Tulloch explained “it was inappropriate and unreasonable that during this ‘investigation’ they granted the patron in question the privilege to attend another production before the investigation was completed.”

A meeting of staff on 29th January passed a resolution calling on the theatre company to develop "better procedures for reporting incidents (and) dealing with violent and intoxicated patrons".

Tulloch stated "furthermore, the victims of this violence felt isolated, frightened and felt lack of support by their employer."

He reiterated the union's demand that the patron be barred from the theatre venue indefinitely, adding “we are appalled and alarmed that STC is willing to put a paying patron's bad behaviour above the safety of its staff.”

STC spokesman Tim McKeough said the theatre company did not agree the first incident involving the season ticket holder was an assault based on advice from the police and its lawyers. He said the second incident was being investigated.

Tulloch suggested that the employees affected have been discouraged from making formal complaints and management has rejected an offer from the union to work together to develop new health and safety procedures for similar incidents.

He concluded “there is no excuse for violence in the workplace.

“There has been inadequate consultation from management to determine a safeguard for our members and our efforts to see better procedures for dealing with violent patrons have been ignored by the STC.”

Image: The Roslyn Packer Theatre (top) was the scene of an alleged assault of an STC usher at a performance of King Lear.

3rd February 2016 - PERTH FRINGE PERFORMERS SUFFER ABUSE, THREATS AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT

1st February 2016 - SYDNEY THEATRES UNDERUTILISED AND INACCESSIBLE

25th August 2015 - STC WELCOMES JONATHAN CHURCH AS NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

13th August 2015 - ROOTY HILL RSL PLANS NEW $55 MILLION ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE

7th August 2015 - WEST END OPERATOR TO MANAGE SYDNEY’S UPGRADED THEATRE ROYAL

22nd May 2015 - WALSH BAY ARTS PRECINCT CONCEPT GETS GREEN LIGHT

6th May 2015 - ROSLYN PACKER THEATRE MARKS NEW ERA FOR SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY

24th March 2015 - LES MISERABLES PRODUCER SLAMS INADEQUATE SYDNEY THEATRE PROVISION

27th February 2015 - WESTERN SYDNEY ARTS COMMUNITY BACKS REPORT INTO ARTS AND CULTURAL FUNDING IN THE WEST

26th October 2014 - BARANGAROO DEVELOPMENT TO INCLUDE NEW SYDNEY THEATRE? 

25th January 2013 - ARTISTS UNPAID AFTER PEATS RIDGE FESTIVAL 


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The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

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