Scores of creatives have rallied outside the National Theatre in central London to protest against more than 1,000 “callous” job cuts along South Bank.
Three major arts institutions – the Tate, the National Theatre and the Southbank Centre – are making mass redundancies brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers are also campaigning for fair redundancy payouts and preferential rehiring for casual staff, and against the large salaries retained by bosses.
Paul Valentine, 32, visitor experience host at the Southbank Centre and chairman of the Public and Commercial Services union, described the cuts as “draconian”.
“We feel like the Government has let us down,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
Siannon, 28, who works in ticketing and membership at the Southbank Centre, said the situation had been handled with a “total lack of empathy”.
“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.
A procession of 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.
A banner, made in solidarity with the workers by Turner prize winning artist Jeremy Deller, was also unfurled.
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.”