Theatre workers’ biggest concern relating to Covid-19 is that the government furlough scheme will end many months before venues are allowed to reopen, a consultation from entertainment union BECTU has found.
During the consultation theatre workers and employers shared their concerns about going back to work following the pandemic using interactive online tool ThoughtExchange, which allows individuals to share ideas anonymously for other participants to rate.
Nearly 750 people took part in the consultation, with 666 responses generated from the question: “What are your main concerns regarding the steps that will need to be taken for your theatre or production to open up for business again in a safe and viable way?”
The responses were ranked in the order of the ratings they attracted from other participants.
As well as fears about the government furlough scheme being discontinued before the industry reopens, other top-rated concerns included worries that employers will be unable to top up salary differences if furlough payments are lowered and fears of “mass redundancies with no hope of an end point where returning might be possible”.
One concern, ranked ninth, was that the government will forget the industry when the rest of the country goes back to work.
The risk of homelessness and the expendability of casual workers employed on zero-hours contracts were also raised.
BECTU head Philippa Childs said: “The extension of the furlough schemes is very welcome but many people are still facing a massive cliff edge with huge uncertainty ahead of them.
“As long as social distancing restrictions continue to be necessary, BECTU is acutely aware that the challenges for theatres to open again grow each day.
“In recent weeks we have heard dire warnings from the industry’s leading lights, most recently Shakespeare’s Globe, which has highlighted that without government support the future is perilous.”
Childs added: “Those concerns are backed up by the views of numerous theatre professionals who are deeply concerned about their future. Regional theatres such as Southport Theatre and Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre have already collapsed under the financial pressure caused by the pandemic and the void they leave will be felt most by those who depended on those organisations for their livelihoods.
“The industry is facing a potential catastrophic impact from Covid-19 and government, employers and workers must come together to develop a strategy for our cultural sectors survival.”