Tate has announced 313 redundancies across its commercial enterprises, which include staff who work in publishing and in gallery shops, cafes and restaurants in London, Liverpool and St Ives.
An email to staff was sent on Tuesday evening from the Tate director, Maria Balshaw, and the chief operating officer, Vicky Cheetham, announcing what they said were “difficult and painful” decisions.
The figure – almost half of the 640 workforce – is bigger than the 200 redundancies which had previously been speculated on. Balshaw, speaking on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs at the weekend, said 50% fewer visitors would be coming to the galleries for probably quite a long time.
“Sadly, at the moment, the trading business is too big because we won’t be able to open all the cafes and the shops in the same way.”
Concerns have also been expressed that the job cuts could disproportionately affect black and minority ethnic staff.
In their email, posted on Twitter by the White Pube, Balshaw and Cheetham address those concerns and say: “First of all it is important to say that we do not yet know the outcome until selection processes are completed. However, it is likely that the proportion of BAME colleagues across Tate Enterprises will remain broadly the same at the end of the process.”
They say Tate has given TEL £5m from its reserves to cover losses and ensure the future of the business. “As well as this, Tate Gallery could have expected to receive at least £5m in income from TEL over the course of the year and this will now be lost.”
Tate will benefit from a share of the government’s £1.57bn recovery package to help arts and culture in the UK, sectors which are among those hit hardest by the pandemic.
PCS has said the figure for Tate is £7m. Despite this, “management is pushing ahead with unnecessary and damaging staff cuts which will greatly hinder the galleries from providing a unique cultural service”.
Balshaw said the consultation on job losses had been delayed as long as possible. “We don’t want to lose any staff but we know we have to otherwise the business won’t be able to trade,” she told Lauren Laverne on Desert Island Discs. Staff who lose their jobs would be given the first opportunity to return post-Covid, she added.
A joint statement from Hamish Anderson and Carmel Allen, directors of Tate Enterprises, said: “We have worked hard and exhaustively, to model as optimistically as we can for the future and to keep as many jobs as possible.
“We regret that, following collective consultation, we will have to make 313 redundancies in Tate Enterprises Ltd. The selection process across these roles will take place over the coming weeks. It is with great sadness that we have been forced by the current circumstances to have to make these decisions. We recognise how difficult this must be for our colleagues and aim to be as supportive as we can while still ensuring the future of the business.”
Steven Warwick, PCS culture group secretary, said the cuts were “brutal” and “incredibly disappointing”.
He added: “We don’t think any redundancies should be made while executives at Tate are still earning hundreds of thousands of pounds salaries. These cuts will disproportionately affect the lowest paid and the most diverse teams across the whole of the Tate estate.”
Job losses on an unprecedented scale are looming for galleries, theatres and music venues across the UK despite the government’s financial package.
On Wednesday, Sadler’s Wells became the latest performing arts organisation to announce it was consulting on redundancies. It said 51 jobs were at risk – 26% of its permanent and fixed term workforce.
The Southbank Centre in London has announced 400 redundancies. An open letter has called the job cuts brutal and warned that a proposed restructuring will result in “irrevocable damage” to the centre. It has been signed by more than 7,000 people.
Over the weekend the centre’s senior artistic team responded to the letter and said the centre would lose £25m over the course of the financial year. Almost all reserves have been used. “Our choices are limited,” they wrote. “We must radically reduce our expenditure.”