The Victoria and Albert Museum is planning to make 103 retail and visitor experience staff redundant – approximately 10% of its overall workforce – with job losses in other departments set to follow.
Staff were briefed on Tuesday about a process to reduce costs by £10m annually to tackle what the London museum described as “the most significant financial challenge” in its history.
Tristram Hunt, the museum’s director, said the redundancies were needed “in order to secure the V&A’s survival and prepare for the challenging years ahead”.
He added: “Every colleague plays a vital role in the success of the V&A – their creativity and expertise are unparalleled, and the loss of their institutional knowledge will be felt for years to come. We will do everything we can to consult openly and transparently, to support our staff community during this exceptionally difficult time, and to rebuild the V&A once more.”
The V&A said it had been through three of its most successful years before 2020, building self-generated income to 55% of its annual turnover.
But the coronavirus pandemic had closed the museum for five months, led to a collapse in tourism and social distancing requirements had reduced capacity, meaning its ability to generate income had been significantly reduced.
In a statement the V&A said: “With visitor figures currently down by 85% and likely to remain severely depressed for some time, we anticipate that our financial recovery will take several years, and are facing the very real prospect that we might never return to the level of visitation and associated income we were able to generate pre-Covid-19.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the V&A said it had “taken every step” to reduce costs including cancelling or postponing sections of its programme, furloughing the majority of staff, freezing recruitment, cancelling staff bonuses and only opening on five days a week.
It has also received emergency money from the government “which gave us a crucial lifeline and some time to stabilise and plan, but unfortunately, this only supports us for this financial year and not beyond March 2021”.
The redundancy proposal is for 103 roles in retail and visitor experience to be cut, which is 85 full-time equivalents. More, as yet unquantified, job losses will follow in phases involving “staff at all levels across every department”.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said: “Management’s decision to immediately enter a consultation for compulsory redundancy for front-of-house workers, while running a voluntary-only redundancy scheme for all other departments, is a direct attack on the most diverse and some of the lowest-paid workers at the museum.
“It is a disgrace that the V&A has chosen not to use the government job support scheme when jobs across the museum, even with reduced visitor numbers, are sustainable.
“PCS will not accept the museum’s current approach and call for an immediate end to compulsory redundancies and to engage constructively with PCS, Prospect, and FDA unions.”