Redundancies are being planned at Cameron Mackintosh’s theatre companies, with the impresario beginning consultations with staff over job cuts.
The planned redundancies put the companies - Delfont Mackintosh Theatres and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd – among the highest-profile theatre organisations yet to implement plans, following the National Theatre’s warning it is looking at reducing its own staff base by about 30%.
BECTU has warned the redundancies could be “catastrophic” for theatre.
Mackintosh has planned consultations with staff following confirmation that the government’s furloughing package will be phased out from August and end in October – a decision that has left many theatre companies fearful for their futures and their workforces.
The consultation period will run until July.
The Stage understands the proposed redundancies are far-ranging, and could impact employees across the board.
A spokeswoman for Mackintosh confirmed the plans and said: “Cameron Mackintosh Limited (CML) and Delfont Mackintosh Theatres (DMT) have now commenced a consultation period with their employees following the closure of theatres due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. CML and DMT expect to operate with a reduced workforce during this continued closure period, with the consultation period due to conclude in mid-July.”
The planned staff cuts come amid a backdrop of warnings from the sector that venues will be forced to close without extra government support once the furloughing scheme ends.
BECTU previously said the sector was bracing itself for mass redundancies.
A poll of theatre employers carried out by the union revealed that three quarters may be forced to make furloughed staff redundant because of planned changes to the job retention scheme.
BECTU has previously warned that it knows of 30 theatres that are having to make cuts, including the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh.
Earlier this week, Birmingham Hippodrome warned about half of its permanent staff base faced redundancy as the fallout from the pandemic hits.
Responding to the new redundancy proposals from Cameron Mackintosh, BECTU head Philippa Childs said: “Delfont Mackintosh’s decision to start redundancy consultation is catastrophic for London’s West End and the entire theatre industry.
“BECTU worked extremely hard to make sure that staff were furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme when it first launched. We are now seeing theatres choosing to stop using the scheme, which the government claims is saving jobs, as a direct result of the changes to the CJRS announced by the chancellor a fortnight ago because of the contributions that employers have to make from August.”
She added: “The government’s total lack of understanding of the issues facing the creative industries is disastrous and damaging for the UK economy. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been holding working groups, involving BECTU, about returning to work. What it is failing to understand is that these conversations are currently irrelevant as so many organisations are about to close or their workforce will be made redundant – particularly those who are in some of the lowest paid roles.”
She said the decision from Delfont Mackintosh was “yet another example of how badly the government is failing the creative industries”.
“The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has sadly shown that he has little or no understanding of the needs of the sector and no influence with the treasury. The chancellor appears to believe a one-size fits all solution works - it doesn’t. The government urgently needs to reassess its strategy for the creative industries,” she said.
It has also emerged that 96 employees at Ambassador Theatre Group are now without pay because they are not eligible under the government’s job retention scheme.
A document seen by The Stage says these staff members were recently hired and were paid in April, but will not be entitled to any more pay.
ATG has been contacted for comment.
The situation all of the major companies find themselves in is indicative of the scale of the problem facing the sector, which is issuing calls on a regular basis for support to help it survive.
They are backed by MPs, with more than 150 MPs and peers this week writing to Boris Johnson to demand help for theatre.
Managers are already seeking tough deals with unions to help theatres weather the pandemic once they are given the greenlight to reopen.
Earlier this week, it emerged the Musicians’ Union has had proposals put to it by the Society of London Theatre, which would see pay musicians’ pay cut by up to 50% in some venues.
BECTU itself is also in the stages of negotiating temporary terms that would be in place until sales return to levels in January this year.