Creatives protest outside National Theatre against 'callous' job cuts

29 August 2020, 14:36

Protesters have gathered outside the National Theatre
Protesters have gathered outside the National Theatre. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

A group of creatives have rallied outside the National Theatre in central London to protest against more than 1,000 "callous" job cuts along South Bank.

Workers from all three institutions marched from the National Theatre to the Southbank Centre just before midday, where speeches were given by staff members and various artists and poets.

They are campaigning for fair redundancy payouts and preferential rehiring for casual staff, whilst criticising the large salaries retained by bosses.

Paul Valentine, 32, chairman of the Public and Commercial Services union and visitor experience host at the Southbank Centre, described the cuts as "draconian" and claims the "Government has let us down".

He told reporters: "Obviously to the public £1.5 billion sounds like a lot of money but really that's not going to the people that need it.

"These institutions pay lip service often to our more vulnerable colleagues who are making these institutions run.

"It's really emotionally draining if you layer on all that trauma that a lot of our underprivileged groups are already experiencing."

Mr Valentine added: "You've got the emotional labour of thinking, 'I'm going to lose my job, how am I going to pay my rent?'

"A lot of us in the arts live week by week, sometimes month by month.

"A lot of the executives and number crunchers, they don't. They've got the money to plan in advance. We can't do that, and that's a little bit of a problem."

Three major arts institutions - the Tate, the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre - are making mass redundancies brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

A banner, made in solidarity with the workers by Turner prize winning artist Jeremy Deller, was also unfurled.

Siannon, 28, who works in ticketing and membership at the Southbank Centre, said the situation had been handled with a "total lack of empathy".

Read more: UK jobs: grim toll of coronavirus pandemic laid bare

"I'm getting a third of the redundancy pay that I'm owed, that's about a month and a half's rent and expenses for me," she said.

"Now I'm going into a market with no jobs so it feels pretty callous and it's been handled with a total lack of empathy.

"We've been treated with contempt. It's like they actually hate us. You'd think that you were a scourge, but we're the ones making the money."

Up to 400 people are expected to lose their jobs at each of the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre and more than 300 at the Tate are being made redundant.

Staff made redundant are worried about paying their bills
Staff made redundant are worried about paying their bills. Picture: PA Images

Andrew, 48, a front-of-house worker at the National Theatre, said that for many of those made redundant, the institutions were "like a second home".

"Today is quite a big day for us front-of-house casual workers at the National Theatre because it marks the end of our casual time with this fantastic institution," he said.

"So many of us are losing our jobs and for many of us it's like a second home. We love working here.

"So many good things, so many wonderful memories, what a fantastic place it's been to work."

It follows similar outrage from staff and unions towards British Airways, which has been accused of "naked, company greed" after it announced 4,000 of its staff would be made redundant.