Staff at Margate Winter Gardens and the Theatre Royal, as well as Dover Town Hall, are in redundancy consultation as employer Your Leisure continues to be impacted by the effects of the Covid pandemic
As the sector struggles to cope with the impact of Covid-19, prominent theatres around the UK have announced or warned of redundancies and now the Your Leisure hospitality sites join that list.
The venues closed in March as pandemic restrictions were brought in to try and flatten the spread of the virus but, despite the government giving the green light for socially distanced performances indoors to restart from August 15, guidance on how that can be done has been thin on the ground.
Issues also surround small venues where socially distanced audiences will not be viable when weighed up against operating costs.
Entertainment and media union Bectu says around 5,000 theatre industry workers have already lost their jobs due to the pandemic. A £1.57bn recovery fund was announced by government in July to protect arts, culture and heritage but many venues are yet to receive a share of the funding. Others say it has come to late to save them.
The ending of furlough
Staff at the Your Leisure theatres and venues have been retained through the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme but this ends on October 31.
Your Leisure say this has protected employment but when it finishes it will become difficult to fund salaries and wages without any income due to continued closure and a mostly empty 2020 schedule as events have been moved to 2021.
It is understood around 30 people are at risk of redundancy, although this figure has not been confirmed.
Hospitality and Entertainments Manager of the venues Paul Palmer said: “When lockdown was enforced, our income stopped overnight and with no clear date when productions or events will start again, we have been forced to explore restructuring to reduce our costs.
“It is important to make clear that no decisions have been made at this point. We are consulting with affected employees about the risk of redundancy.”
Managing Director of Your Leisure, Kevin Fordham (pictured above), said: “We are committed to paying our team until the end of October, but sadly due to the changes in the Job Retention Scheme we simply cannot afford to offer ongoing financial support beyond that point without any further Government intervention.
“Your Leisure is in the process of submitting an application to the Cultural Recovery Fund but it is not clear if we will receive the support required so have to make these difficult preparations.”
No decision has been made with formal consultation exploring ways to avoid making redundancies or to try and reduce the number of job losses involved.
Your Leisure say the Covid situation is changing daily and will be continually monitored with action taken being in line with the latest Government guidance and instruction.
Any changes in relation to the future of the entertainment and hospitality side of the business will be taken into account during the consultation.
Margate Winter Gardens, Theatre Royal and Dover Town Hall will remain closed until complexities around social distancing and enhanced hygiene practices have been outlined in more detail by the government.
A report released by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee says the rescue fund was released too late for many venues and better guidance should be in place with more notice on the next steps.
The committee says there should be a sector-specific recovery deal for performing arts that includes continued workforce support measures and technological solutions to enable audiences to return without social distancing.