Tate picket line. Photo: Shabbir Lakha Tate picket line. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Workers in the arts and culture sector are facing wholesale job and pay cuts – it’s time to fight back, argues Floyd Codlin

The National Theatre, Southbank Centre, Historic & Royal Palaces, and now it seems the V&A, are shredding hundreds of jobs. PCS Tate has just suspended its 42 days of strike action because the board has come back with improved terms for members of staff. What all of the boards share, is that they trousered millions from the chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s £1.57 billion arts and culture bailout. A bailout, that seems to have been used by these institutions as a mass slush fund.

Stephen Bush in the New Statesman noted on July 6th 2020, that “The problem, though, is that the benefits of the arts aren’t simply direct. When do I go to the pub? Generally before going to a gig or a concert”

Also not everyone was gushing over the Chancellor’s supposed largesse. Emma Kennedy on twitter pointed out that France alone had given over €7 billion to the arts and culture sector. Jon Morgan director of The Theatres Trust said “It remains to be seen whether this amount will be sufficient to replace the furlough scheme, as it begins to taper from August and ends in October, at a time when we still do not have timescales for theatres reopening”.

The board members have refused to use that money productively to safeguard jobs, yet feel entitled to still draw upon their salaries of £100,000 plus. Also despite nearly all of the institutions mentioned doing a performative support for BLM, at the same time, many of those facing the loss of their jobs are POC. In light of this, I think we’re more entitled to draw such inferences as we think sufficient and appropriate concerning this matter.

If you are not in a trade union in the culture sector then I urge you to join one and if you are, then equally I urge you to get more involved in your branch. For far too long the arts and culture here in the UK have been regarded as just a bit of fun. Within the trade union movement we’ve had to fight to get taken seriously and not be regarded as just fripperies. Yet it is from the culture sector unions, over the last few years that have seen victories, that the ‘big battalions’ can only look on and dream of.

The decimation of the jobs of our comrades and colleagues will only stop, when we (as in the left, and fellow trade unionists) realise and remember that we “fight not just for bread, but for roses too”. So it’s more than time, that trade unionists get organised and fight back.

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