The majority of the 100-plus staff at the Royal and Derngate Theatres in Northampton are facing redundancy following a decision by management to close the venues for 14 months so that emergency work can be undertaken as part of the refurbishment.
Chief executive Donna Munday could not say how many employees could lose their jobs but confirmed it would involve a significant number. She added that staff will be offered the opportunity of re-employment once the theatres reopen.
Initially the multi-million pound refurbishment work was to have been limited to periods of three months annually for the next two years. During these times the theatre would remain dark.
However, the need to remove asbestos in both venues and to repair rotten flooring at the Royal prompted the decision to shut the venue for more than one year.
Now angry staff are claiming that they have been misled by management, saying they were assured their jobs were safe. They are demanding assurances that once the work is completed their positions will be protected. A meeting of the joint negotiating committee, which is made up of representatives of unions Bectu, Equity, Unison and non-union staff, was due to be held today (Thursday).
Bectu supervisory official Willy Donaghy said staff are also concerned that the appointment of a consultant to oversee the refurbishment is indicative of management using the closure and redundancies to “weed the patch” and get rid of staff deemed unnecessary. Management has categorically denied this.
Said Donaghy: “Our members should not be the losers in these plans. If it is a necessity that there are redundancies we want to limit the number and make sure the members are compensated as much as possible and get them guarantees to get their jobs back when it reopens. There is a lot of bitterness from the staff in the way they have been treated.”
The Royal Theatre, built in 1884, and Derngate, constructed 21 years ago, have £1.6 million earmarked from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £2.6 million from the East Midlands Development Agency and Northampton Partnership. Almost £1 million has been raised in partnership funding by the theatres’ development team. The £13 million project will merge both venues into one construction, see the building of an education centre and the total refurbishment of the two venues.