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London's Victoria and Albert Museum set to cut at least 103 jobs to 'ensure its survival', director says

Museum says it is in "its worst financial position on record" because of coronavirus

Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, London Courtesy of V&A

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London has announced that it is consulting staff on job cuts, with 10% of the workforce facing redundancy. The redundancy proposal is for 103 roles in retail and visitor experience, with job losses to follow in other departments. The cuts are part of plans to cover the financial losses incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The museum's director Tristram Hunt says in a statement that the measures are needed to “secure the V&A’s survival and prepare for the challenging years ahead”. The institution needs to make savings of £10m annually and will conduct a review across all departments over the next nine months.

“The restructuring proposals include a reduction of 85 full-time equivalents across both teams [retail and visitor experience], which equates to 103 roles or 10% of the V&A‘s overall headcount. Final decisions will be made once the consultation is complete,” says a museum statement.

"What will happen in 2021? We are all in the dark about the coming fiscal year"

The collapse in tourism and social distancing requirements in the wake of Covid-19 has caused a slump in museums' self-generated income through ticket sales, retail and corporate hire. “The V&A is in its worst financial position on record. We’re seeing a drop of almost 70% of our self-generated revenue, alongside an 85% drop in visitor figures,” a museum spokeswoman adds.

The V&A turned to emergency support from the government, “but unfortunately this only supports us for this financial year and not beyond March 2021”. The issue of what happens once government funding runs out is a cause of concern for the sector however. “What will happen in 2021? The emergency money this year has been a godsend, but we are all in the dark about the coming fiscal year,” says a UK cultural leader who wishes to remain anonymous.

The museum says it has taken steps to mitigate the impact of coronavirus such as cancelling all staff bonuses and reducing opening hours to five days a week. But the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) criticised the museum’s position, saying that the “management’s decision to immediately enter a consultation for compulsory redundancy for front of house workers, while running a voluntary-only redundancy scheme for all other departments, is a direct attack on the most diverse and some of the lowest paid workers at the museum”.

A source close to the museum says that the voluntary redundancy option is open to all staff across the V&A. This will launch in advance of the consultation with the retail and visitor experience departments, enabling the executive board to restructure accordingly and possibly reduce the number of redundancies.

Other London museums are also having to cut staff. The Royal Academy of Arts is in discussions to cut 40% of its team; the Tate has axed more than 300 staff members; and the Southbank Centre is making up to two thirds of its staff redundant.