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Tate Modern in London.

Museum Staffers Protest Proposed Job Cuts at Tate Modern Reopening

Dozens of Tate employees gathered on July 27 to protest at London’s Tate Modern during its long-awaited reopening, steering visitors’ attention to cuts at the museum and across a wider cultural sector ravaged by the pandemic. In mid-June, four months since the Tate closed its four galleries due to Covid-19, the museum informed its commercial arm, Tate Enterprise, that it plans to eliminate some two hundred retail, catering, and publishing sector jobs throughout its London, Liverpool, and St. Ives locations. Between the Tate, the Southbank Center, and the National Theatre, approximately one thousand workers are facing unemployment.

The Monday morning demonstration was organized by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which is urging the Tate to divert 10 percent of its expected $9 million government bailout to protect vulnerable positions. Such an investment would achieve 70 percent of the $1.3 million in savings the institution hopes to make with the cuts and would “protect the poorest-paid staff, and invest in their most diverse teams,” according to a union announcement. “This would be a good start in showing that black lives, and black and minority ethnic workers, truly matter to the Tate.”

The directors of Tate Enterprises, Hamish Anderson and Carmel Allen, say the museum has allocated $6.4 million of its reserves to support its commercial wing and that redundancies will be made across all levels of the organization. The restructuring plan was made in light of new social distancing regulations and an anticipated “inevitable drop in visitors in the coming months.”

PCS alleges that the museum confirmed it will not invest any of the government money into Tate Enterprises and plans to move ahead with the planned cuts, which were drafted several weeks before the bailout was announced. Ninety-three percent of union membership voted to strike unless some of the grant money is used to save the at-risk jobs, which are mostly part-time and on casual contracts. No official decisions have been made, and collective consultation of museum employees is expected to continue into early August.

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