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London’s Tate Modern.
London’s Tate Modern.

Tate to Slash More Than 300 Commercial Jobs

Beleaguered, as almost every institution is, by the economic impact of the coronavirus, London’s Tate galleries in September will eliminate 313 jobs—nearly half of all positions—from the organization’s commercial arm, with full- and part-time staffers alike affected.

Tate director Maria Balshaw and chief operation officer Vicky Cheetham, in an internal email first obtained by website The White Pube and posted on their Twitter account, cited a “dramatic drop” in visitors and revenue as the reason for the cuts, which she contended had left Tate with “no option but to resize our business in line with future demand.”

The jobs are to be eliminated by mid-September, with the losses coming only at Tate Enterprises Ltd., which handles retail, catering, and publishing services at the institution’s four galleries, two of which are in London, the others in Liverpool and St Ives, respectively. No Tate gallery staff will be laid off. After protesting during Tate Modern’s reopening on July 31, Tate Enterprises staff represented by the PCS union voted last week to strike, with action planned to commence the week of August 17. The move was an effort to stave off what was then thought to be the loss of around 200 jobs.

Apprehension has swirled that the layoffs would disproportionately affect Black and minority ethnic workers. Balshaw and Cheetham addressed this concern in their email, saying, “[I]t is important to say that we do not yet know the outcome until selection processes are completed. However, it is likely that the proportion of BAME colleagues across Tate Enterprises will remain broadly the same at the end of the process.”

Steven Warwick, PCS culture group secretary, was blunt in expressing his disappointment with the decision. “We don’t think any redundancies should be made while executives at Tate are still earning hundreds of thousands of pounds salaries. These cuts will disproportionately affect the lowest paid and the most diverse teams across the whole of the Tate estate.”