Mass redundancies as the Southbank Centre disproportionately affect BAME staff

30 Jul 2020

Southbank Centre’s workforce to potentially become 6% more white as it sets out to deny £1.4 million in redundancy payouts.

  • Disproportionate cuts to BAME staff to make Southbank Centre much less representative.
  • Redundancy terms have been changed, reducing payouts by £1.4million
  • Protest as Hayward Gallery reopens Saturday 1st August.

As the Southbank Centre prepares to make upto 70% of it’s workforce redundant, it has proposed changes to previously agreed redundancy terms that will deny £1.4million in payouts to staff facing future unemployment. The redundancies and payouts will disproportionately affect BAME staff with at least 71 out of 365 (as some teams have not yet confirmed their "at risk" pools) positions under threat currently filled by BAME people. Should all 365 positions be eliminated, Southbank Centre will go from having a 20% BAME workforce to just 14% BAME workforce.

Southbank Centre claims it is unable to provide the previously agreed redundancy terms of three weeks pay for every year of service and is seeking to impose vastly reduced new terms on staff. 

The executive team of Southbank Centre has informed staff that the government's £1.5billion arts bailout package will not help as the centre believes it will not be eligible for further funding. The scale of the proposed redundancies at Southbank Centre is huge with at least 365 staff out of 575 at risk of redundancy. The proposals affect all teams but some, such as Visitor Experience and Ticketing, are at greater risk as Southbank Centre now expects the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall to be completely closed until April 2021. 

The PCS branch commented: “Our members are deeply upset by Southbank Centre’s callous imposition of severely reduced redundancy terms at a time of extreme financial and social crisis caused by COVID19. The majority of our members have long and dedicated service to Southbank Centre and are now seeing their employer walk back on previously agreed terms. Our members did not cause this crisis and should not have to pay the price for it.”

Southbank Centre has pledged both publicly and internally that it supports the Black Lives Matter movement and is committed to improving the representation of diverse staff, artists and audiences across the organisation. BAME and POC employee numbers are still low at Southbank Centre and this contributes to a culture where structural racism persists. Southbank Centre’s leadership has continuously claimed that it wants to make a safe working space for this group of people. It is clear however that the redundancy actions sit in direct opposition with those pledges, as Southbank Centre have made no commitments to protecting BAME and POC staff in this process beyond an Equality Impact Assessment. This group of workers will be amongst the most affected by these planned redundancies. Should the Visitor Experience and Ticketing teams be reduced the overall percentage of white staff at Southbank Centre would increase immediately by 6%.

PCS and Unite Southbank Centre branches and the Southbank Centre BAME Staff Network announced today that they will be protesting against these redundancies on severely reduced terms and the impact on BAME members on Saturday 1 August, when Hayward Gallery reopens to visitors. This will be part of a joint protest with National Theatre casual workers who are facing similar mass redundancies. Full event details are on Facebook.

Key Contacts:

PCS Southbank Centre Branch - pcs.southbankcentre@gmail.com

Southbank Centre BAME Staff Network - bamenetwork@southbankcentre.co.uk

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