Sector hit by more redundancies as end of furlough scheme draws near

National Museums Liverpool and Museum of London are among the latest to confirm job cuts
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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Merseyside Maritime Museum, one of the eight venues run by National Museums Liverpool
Merseyside Maritime Museum, one of the eight venues run by National Museums Liverpool (c) Tom Adam

More redundancies have been announced in the museum sector in the run-up to the end of the government furlough scheme later this month.

A consultation got underway at National Museums Liverpool this week, with up to 100 roles at risk across the institution's eight venues.

The proposed redundancies represent around a fifth of the institution's FTE posts. A voluntary exit scheme is being offered to employees ahead of compulsory layoffs.

Director Laura Pye said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have taken every step to reduce costs and mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on the organisation. This has included postponing exhibitions, reducing operational budgets, reopening our venues in phases, reducing our opening hours and using our reserves to stem the impact.

“We were also fortunate to benefit from emergency funding from government to support us until the end of this financial year and took advantage of the government’s Job Retention Scheme. This has enabled us to top up salaries of furloughed staff to 100% and retain staff during this difficult period for as long as we possibly could.

“With the furlough period coming to an end, we are sadly in a position where our commercial and charitable revenue sources are still profoundly reduced. We have reached a point where the financial implications of closure, the reduction in revenue, along with a severe downturn in tourism extending from a global to a local level, cannot be ignored if we are to survive.

“Since reopening, our July – September visitor figures across the venues we had open reduced to approximately 17% of our usual footfall, compared with 2019 figures for this period. The related drop in income, and the knock-on effects on our financial stability over the next few years, ultimately means we face some extremely difficult choices about the size, structure and viability of some of our teams.”

Pye said NML would work closely with unions and affected colleagues and would “continue to be transparent during what is a very difficult time".

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She said: “Across the board, the team has supported us as we reopened each of our venues in a safe and Covid-secure way for our visitors, and as director I am devastated that we find ourselves in this position.”

Museum of London

The Museum of London has started a redundancy consultation with staff and is expecting to cut 28 FTE posts. Redundancies will be made in the museum's commercial and visitor experience teams, and it is also restructuring its executive board.

Director Sharon Ament said the museum needed to make a £2m saving in the next financial year to address the shortfall in its income. She said the museum had so far been able to take advantage of the business rates relief and furlough schemes, but was facing difficult decisions as these support packages will not be available next year.

Ament said: "This is not a decision taken lightly; our colleagues are our greatest strength – capable, creative and passionate about what they do – and we are working closely with our trade union to ensure transparent and open communication through this challenging time.

"The financial impact is already severe and anticipated to last beyond this year. This will be the first phase of an ongoing review of all other areas of business, which will take place over the coming months across all departments and at all levels in order to ensure our long-term financial stability."

Eureka!

Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire, has announced an as-yet unconfirmed number of job cuts, saying it needs to shave a third off its total salary bill.

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The museum’s chief executive, Leigh-Anne Stradeski, said: “In light of the significant reduction of visitor income and lack of government support packages for science centres, the financial situation of the educational charity and UK’s only children’s museum is looking extremely challenging.

“We have relied heavily on our financial reserves up until now and have spent £500,000, an amount we expect to rise to over £800,000 by year-end. The furlough grant has been very useful in helping us to retain staff and phase reopening. However, this grant finishes at the end of October and the Job Support Scheme recently announced will not help us safeguard the charity going forward. Clearly, we need to reduce our costs in order to remain financially sustainable.”

The organisation is also proposing to close its nursery, which was previously a significant source of income. The childcare facility has been badly affected by changes to work patterns during the pandemic.

National Trust

The National Trust has finished its redundancy consultation and confirmed this week that it is cutting almost 1,300 roles across sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This includes 782 voluntary redundancies and 514 compulsory redundancies.

The trust's director-general, Hilary McGrady, said: "It’s with deep sadness that we have to make redundancies. I certainly don’t want to stop any of the extraordinary work done by the people of the National Trust.

“But our consultation has done as intended. It provided proposals to reach our savings target, and sparked such thorough feedback and collective intelligence that we’ve been able to adapt our plans while still making the savings we needed. It’s been a difficult process with some very hard choices.”

Prospect’s general secretary, Mike Clancy, said: “Prospect understand the pressures the National Trust is under, but this is still a huge number of job losses and those redundancies will have a huge impact on the lives of all affected.

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“Thanks to work from Prospect reps and officials the level of compulsory redundancies is lower than it might have been but is still high - with consultation we hope to reduce these still further through e.g. redeployment within the trust. We are grateful for the level of consultation we have had so far from the employer.

“The long-term prospects for the National Trust and access to its properties and lands are hugely important both to employees and to the cultural health of the nation. The current plan, while devastating for those who are losing jobs they love, is a reasonable way to move forward, minimising job losses while hopefully safeguarding the National Trust’s future.”

The Museums Association is capturing data on job losses through its Redundancy Tracker. If you have information about redundancies, please get in touch using the anonymous online form

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