Tate to make more than 300 commercial staff redundant

The gallery group says a long-term drop in visitor numbers has forced it to restructure its business
Jonathan Knott
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The Terrace Bar at Tate Modern
The Terrace Bar at Tate Modern Tate

Tate plans to make more than 300 of its retail and catering staff redundant, citing a drop in visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An email to staff from Tate’s director Maria Balshaw and its chief operating officer Victoria Cheetham said the gallery would have to make 313 redundancies within its commercial subsidiary Tate Enterprises, which runs catering, retail, corporate events and publishing across Tate’s four galleries. This represents about half of Tate Enterprises’ staff.

The email, shared on Twitter by the White Pube, said: “The long-term drop in visitor numbers we are expecting for the foreseeable future, and the consequent loss of revenue, have left us no option but to resize our businesses in line with future demand.”

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, which represents retail staff within Tate Enterprises, has argued that Tate should use money it expects to receive from the government’s emergency cultural support package to save jobs.

But Balshaw and Cheetham’s email says “any government bailout funding will have to be used to offset the substantial loss of income elsewhere in the gallery – from ticket sales and other income-generating activities”.

It says Tate has already provided £5m from its reserves to cover Tate Enterprises’ losses this year.

Last week, PCS members at Tate Enterprises voted to go ahead with strike action, which will begin next week.

Addressing claims that the restructure would impact BAME staff disproportionately, Balshaw and Cheetham’s email said “it is likely that the proportion of BAME colleagues across Tate Enterprises Ltd will remain broadly the same at the end of the process”.

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Speaking on the BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island discs last weekend, Balshaw said Tate was “facing 50% fewer visitors coming to our galleries for probably quite a long time”.

She said this meant “sadly at the moment the trading business is too big, because we won’t be able to open all the cafes and shops in the same way”.

A statement from Hamish Anderson and Carmel Allen, the directors of Tate Enterprises, said: “We have been supported by Tate with an allocation of £5m from their reserves. However, this funding cannot meet the gap in income due to heavily reduced visitor numbers in the galleries. 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.”

At the time of the vote for strike action, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It cannot be right that the Tate receives millions of pounds in support, only to try to cut more than 200 jobs.  

“The union will support members all the way to get a just settlement, no matter how long it takes.”

Balshaw and Cheetham’s email said that if it needs to recruit again, staff made redundant will be offered preferential treatment when applying for vacancies until August 2021.

A growing number of other large cultural institutions have announced major redundancy plans. Restructures at organisations including Southbank Centre, Historic Royal Palaces, Royal Collections Trust, Birmingham Museums Trust, and the National Trust mean that thousands of jobs in the sector are at risk.

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