Ambassador Theatre Group is set to let more than 1,200 casual staff go, with union BECTU warning the move could see other companies following suit.
According to a report in the Guardian, ATG will lay off more than 1,200 casual stage when the government furlough scheme ends later this year.
The decision affects casual staff and those on zero-hour contracts, it is reported.
ATG, the largest theatre operator, has a portfolio including the Liverpool Empire and West End venues including the Apollo Victoria Theatre and the Harold Pinter Theatre.
According to the Guardian, the company has told casual staff they will no longer receive furlough pay through the government’s Job Retention Scheme after the end of August.
A spokeswoman said: "ATG has informed individuals working on a casual basis that they will no longer receive furlough pay through the government’s Job Retention Scheme after the end of August. ATG confirmed that it is paying the additional costs of retaining staff on the scheme through August. The impact of the pandemic, which has left theatres closed since March 16 and without any clear opening date with no social distancing, has forced the company to make this difficult decision."
BECTU head Philippa Childs said delays in telling companies how the government’s £1.57 billion rescue package would be distributed and who is eligible had resulted in companies making redundancy decisions.
She warned that, because of ATG’s size and prominence in the industry, it “tends to set a trend” and raised concern that more large-scale lay redundancies will happen before the package delivers any benefits.
In a statement, she said: “Casual workers are being cut off from access to the job retention scheme at an alarming rate and this pattern is set to continue across all patterns of theatre employment. Theatres cannot afford to contribute to the costs of furlough at a time when they still have no idea of when they will realistically be in a position to re-open and despite pilot indoor performances taking place from August 1."
She added: "Plans for distribution of the crucial arts recovery package have been made public today, but we already know that the money won’t actually be made available to organisations until October. Although there are plans that the money should be available to workers and freelancers the current timetable is still too slow and by October many more people will have been cut adrift from the safety net provided by the job retention scheme scheme. Ultimately, this will result in people leaving the industry at a time when it is on its knees and will desperately need their experience, skills and talent to bring it to life again.”
News of ATG’s job losses comes as the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre revealed hundreds of jobs would be cut from their operations.
The job cuts at ATG are understood to be in addition to the previously announced redundancy round the company announced it was undertaking, which it said would affect "a small number of individuals representing approximately 5% of the overall UK headcount".
The Guardian also reported further job losses at Nimax Theatres, but chief executive Nica Burns told The Stage no further redundancies had been made since The Stage ran news of job cuts affecting performance staff in June.
She denied the report in the Guardian that jobs in box office, stage door and technical roles were also being cut.