5,000 theater workers lost their jobs due to coronavirus, union figures show

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About 5,000 workers in the theater industry have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus, according to entertainment and media union Bectu.

Around 2,700 of them are in London, while the main regional theaters are also starting dismissal procedures.

The sector has been plunged into uncertainty by the pandemic after production across the country was suspended.

The union said the number of layoffs in the industry had increased by 2,000 since the announcement in July of the government’s £ 1.57 billion support program for the arts, which will be used to help organizations such as theaters, concert halls, museums and galleries.

Philippa Childs, union leader, told Standard: “Since the start of the pandemic, the entire theater industry has called for government intervention. However, despite a commitment to intervene with the announcement of the £ 1.57bn recovery package, this has so far been unsuccessful.

“Without the much needed details and the urgency to provide funding, which is crucial to the future of the industry, the stimulus package is meaningless and will be delivered too late to change the devastating narrative currently playing out.

“Bectu has warned since the announcement of the changes to the leave scheme that massive job cuts and layoffs were inevitable and that this will only continue as every day passes without funds being released and without any certainty about the when theaters can reopen. “

Speaking on what the government could do for theaters, Childs said they should “grant theater employers exemption from contribution to the leave program and set up a specific support fund for freelancers in the creative industries. who are still not working due to the pandemic. “

The figures include people permanently employed by theaters as well as casual workers and staff on zero hour contracts.

In addition to layoffs, employers are also offering significant pay cuts for those who are not made redundant, according to Bectu.

The union estimates that around 290,000 people are employed in the theater industry and 70 percent of them are freelancers, many of whom are not eligible for government support.

The Sheffield Theaters Trust, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theater Royal Newcastle, Nuffield Southampton, Lyceum Edinburgh, Coventry Belgrade and Norwich Theater Royal are among the regional venues reporting redundancy proceedings, according to Bectu.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week postponed plans to allow socially remote performances inside theaters and music venues.

A number of high level players have spoken out in favor of the struggling industry. Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge and The Crown star Olivia Colman last week launched a fund to provide grants to UK theater professionals facing financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports has been contacted for comment.

With additional reporting from Press Association

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