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Challenge to panto company on their exploitation of workers and reneging on agreement

Have you had your rights denied by Polka Dot Pantomimes? Contact us.

We have today (12 February) launched the next stages of action against Polka Dot Pantomimes, over their denial of statutory rights of performers and stage management working on their pantos and reneging on an agreement they made with us.

Karrim Jalali, Equity’s Industrial Official for Pantomime said, “We sought to work with Darren Maddison of Polka Dot Pantomimes earlier this year after what we believe to be serious breaches of employment law on engagements were brought to our attention. He firmly agreed to re-issue contracts on better terms and conditions to all performers and stage management, acknowledging their rights as workers and including important statutory entitlements, such as paid holiday. Instead, from my perspective, he has sought to fly under the radar and try to see what he can get away with, because he doesn’t want to pay what he owes to the workforce. This is unacceptable and we will not tolerate such behaviour.”

Throughout the correspondence and dialogue with Polka Dot Pantomimes, the company never once disputed that the performer and stage management workforce hold employment rights as workers in law. Yet, despite our work to bring key statutory employer duties to their attention, the company have:

  • breached Working Time Regulations by having gruelling schedules without offering the proper rest days required in law
  • failed to offer holiday pay/holiday pay in lieu which is worth a significant amount to workers and is also a duty under Working Time Regulations
  • failed to auto-enrol workers into a company pension scheme as is Polka Dot Pantomime’s duty under the Pensions Act 2008

Polka Dot Pantomimes ran six pantomimes for the recent Christmas season in South Holland Centre, Spalding; Albert Halls, Bolton; The Redgrave Theatre, Bristol; Thameside Theatre, Grays; Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham; and the Eric Morecombe Centre, Harpenden. Five of the venues hosting Polka Dot Pantomimes are owned by public authorities, and the sixth venue, Redgrave Theatre, is owed by the charity, Clifton College.

We have written to council leaders and Clifton College’s chief executive setting out our concerns about the misuse of public authority land and charity spaces. These concerns include that “hosting companies which exploit workers is completely incongruent to [their] organisational vision and values”. We have called on the respective councils and charity to carefully consider their future relationships with Polka Dot Pantomimes and “take every reasonable measure [they] can to ensure [their] spaces are not used in connection with the exploitation of workers.”

Have you recently worked on a Polka Dot pantomimes production?

If you’ve worked on a Polka Dot pantomimes production you could be owed a significant amount of money due to numerous breaches of basic statutory rights. Contact 

Ian Manborde, Equity’s Midlands Official says, “Equity will always defend its members’ fundamental employment rights and challenge those employers who seek to deny these. The pantomime season is a crucial season for creating work for our members, but not at any cost. We call on all Equity members who have recently worked for Polka Dot Pantomimes to come forward and work with us to force this company to stand by its promise to offer decent work.”

Karrim Jalali of Equity says, “I’m sure that Polka Dot Pantomimes will attempt to defend their practices and deny any employment law breaches. But one only needs to look at their scheduling of performances or ask the performer and stage manager workforce if they were enrolled into a pension scheme or received any paid holiday entitlements to know the truth.”

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