Jobs under threat at Tate Liverpool as coronavirus hits business

Jobs are under threat at Liverpool's renowned Tate Gallery with union bosses warning they are balloting for strike action.

Staff who work in the cafe and gift shop at the city waterfront venue have been told their employment is at risk in a move also affecting galleries in London and St Ives.

Management at the Albert Dock attraction were today unable to provide numbers of how many people were at risk in Liverpool.

Union officials described Tate's move as a "massive attack" on their members and called the employment decision as "staggering."

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The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) at Tate's commercial subsidiary will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action.

The union said the organisation was pressing ahead with plans to cut jobs despite receiving millions of pounds in additional grant aid from the Government as part of the Covid-19 rescue package.

PCS officials said Tate Enterprises, which operates retail, catering and publishing services, notified staff in mid-June of restructuring plans aimed at saving £1 million this financial year.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said: "Tate management have launched a massive attack on our members and they have no choice but to ballot for strike action to save their jobs.

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"It is staggering that after receiving a grant from the Government, Tate has decided to treat loyal staff who support some of our country's most important cultural sites, with redundancy.

"We will support our members in whatever they decide to do, including prolonged strike action."

The ballot runs from July 22 to August 3.

The Tate galleries are due to reopen next Monday after being forced to close by the virus crisis.

This afternoon, Tate Liverpool issued a statement, from Hamish Anderson and Carmel Allen, directors of Tate Enterprises Ltd.

It said: "Tate is almost unique in choosing to run its catering and retail activities through a commercial subsidiary, Tate Enterprises Ltd: most museums outsource these activities to other companies.

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“When the galleries reopen, new regulations and social distancing guidelines will impact the ability to operate retail and catering outlets in the same way as before and there will be an inevitable drop in visitors in the coming months.

"We in Tate Enterprises Ltd are therefore having to make the difficult decisions that many businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors now face and have begun a collective consultation to restructure the business.

"Tate Gallery has already allocated £5 million from its reserves to support the business throughout lockdown, and this financial year, which has enabled us to top up salaries to 100% and retain staff during this difficult period.

“In order to reduce losses once the galleries reopen, and to resize in line with expected demand in the longer term, we have entered a period of collective consultation with our staff.

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"We are working hard to retain as many of these staff as possible and have modelled as optimistically as we can with a view to ensuring the long term future of the business.

“This consultation is across all areas of Tate Enterprises Ltd and affects all levels of staff. Our aim is to be as supportive to our colleagues as possible in the circumstances.

“As the period of collective consultation is ongoing, we cannot give any specifics as we don’t yet know the outcomes.

“The government funding, recently announced, is welcome news for the museum sector but we do not expect any of these funds to be allocated to Tate Enterprises Ltd, particularly in light of support already received.”

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