JOB losses are on the cards at the Royal Shakespeare Company after the organisation announced it would be consulting with unions and staff “to safeguard the long-term future of the company”.
The RSC confirmed there would definitely be no full productions staged at any of its theatres this year and the company would begin formal redundancy consultations in October, when the government’s job retention scheme runs out. There are currently 750 employees, plus anything up to 400 freelancers at any one time, although when lockdown began in March this figure stood at 242.
Blaming the coronavirus pandemic and the “direct impact” on the company, artistic director Gregory Doran and executive director Catherine Mallyon issued a joint statement on the latest blow to Stratford’s tourism industry.
With no clear roadmap from the government about how theatres might successfully return to indoor performances with large enough audiences to make them viable, the company’s original hope to reopen before the end of 2020 has fallen through.
The statement said: “Despite our wish to reopen our theatres by the end of the year, it is now clear that the ongoing pandemic and the continued need for social distancing mean that we will not be able to stage full RSC productions in our theatres before 2021.
“It is with great sadness that we have now reached the stage where a formal consultation process with employees must take place to safeguard the long-term future of the company. We had hoped that things would have become more positive by now, but this has not been the case.
“With the end of the CJRS in sight, today (Thursday) we gave advance notice to our trade union partners and our employees of a formal consultation process, which will begin in October.
“We also confirmed that, as there will be no work available, from 1st November we will be unable to pay casual worker colleagues and those employed on variable hours contracts. Variable hours colleagues will remain employed and casual workers will stay on our books for when work opportunities return in the future.”
The number of casual and variable hours staff affected currently stands at 149.
The statement added: “Every one of our colleagues makes the RSC the company that it is, and every one contributes to its success. They show exceptional talent, professionalism, skill, commitment and care at all times and we thank them for their ongoing support.”
The RSC has been working throughout the crisis with schools and education partners, and that work will continue, alongside some outdoor performances and events such as the Shakespeare Snapshots in the Dell gardens and the newly unveiled family theatre trail in Bancroft Gardens.
The directors added: “We will look at what other events and online activity we can continue to provide for our audiences in the autumn and winter.
“We very much hope that the government review of social distancing measures in November will bring positive news for the industry and provide a timeline for when we can welcome our audiences back into our theatres again.”
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