An open letter signed by more than 300 artists, including several former Turner prize winners, in support of striking Tate workers has demanded the organisation uses 10% of the £7m it received from the government to stop redundancies.
Last year’s four Turner prize winners, 2008 winner Mark Leckey and fourth plinth artist Heather Phillipson are among the signatories, who support the letter which says “multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multilingual, workers from low-income backgrounds” will be cut out of the arts sector without action.
The workers, who are on strike over the 313 job cuts across Tate Enterprises (TEL), say the money awarded to the organisation as part of the government’s £1.57bn arts support package is not being used to save jobs and “the most precarious workers across the culture sector will be expected to pay for the Covid-19 crisis”.
They urge TEL to stop the redundancy process immediately and to “start exploring new imaginative ways to save jobs and avoid outsourcing”. Tate has previously given TEL £5m from its reserves which Tate said has “prevented the TEL business from closing with the loss of all jobs”, but the workers are calling for funds to be used to save existing roles.
“We demand that there are no redundancies while senior staff earn more than £100,000,” the letter continues. “Just 10% of the Tate’s £7m government bailout would be enough to save many of the TEL jobs. If the money isn’t enough, then Tate must demand more funding.”
In response Tate said the decision to restructure TEL was a “last resort” and that it is offering preferential treatment to those made redundant for any vacancies at Tate. It added that with drastically reduced visitor numbers, “there is simply not enough work to employ the same number of people in our shops and catering outlets as before”.
A spokesperson for Tate said: “Tate is facing a £50m shortfall in self-generated income this year. We are doing all we can to mitigate the impact of this, including on jobs. We are halving all budgets, freezing all but essential recruitment, a voluntary 10% pay cut has been taken by the executive group, and we continue to argue for more government support.”
The redundancies – almost half of Tate’s workforce – were called “incredibly disappointing” by the PCS union, which said they will disproportionately affect the lowest paid and the most diverse TEL teams.
The Tate recently faced criticism over its links to the patron Anthony d’Offay after it expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Its critics posted a selfie on social media that D’Offay had taken in 2017 of himself posing in a mirror with a golliwog.
The Tate responded to accusations of hypocrisy by saying: “We do not condone racist imagery, abuse or discrimination inside Tate, our galleries or digital platforms.” The Tate has since cut all ties with the benefactor.