The South Bank Centre in London, which includes some of the country’s most prestigious arts venues, is threatening to derecognise its trade unions if they do not agree to new terms and conditions.
In the kind of hard-line tactics unfamiliar to the arts world, managers have given unions until July to sign up to a package that includes reductions in sick pay, leave and overtime, a rise in employee pension contributions, and a new system of financial fines for disciplinary offences.
If the PCS and Amicus unions fail to negotiate a new deal, recognition will be terminated on 15 July. Thirty-two policies agreed by the unions, covering issues such as bullying and sexual harassment, will be scrapped along with it.
The South Bank Centre said it hopes to reach a new deal. However, in a letter seen by Personnel Today, director of HR, Mike Morris, said: “Any failure to have… a new union agreement by the termination date shall not prevent the union agreement and those other agreements, policies and procedures… terminating on the termination date.”
Sarah Cook, regional officer with Amicus, said: “The normal thing to do is to sort out a new deal before you scrap the old one.”
PCS is planning a petition among the 400 staff. Its slogan is ‘Things can only get bitter’ – a reference to the South Bank’s importance to the New Labour establishment.
Tony Blair celebrated Labour’s 1997 election victory outside the Royal Festival Hall to D:Ream’s famous hit, Things can only get better, while the South Bank’s chairman is Labour peer, Lord Hollick.
Ryan Rogers, PCS representative at the South Bank, said: “I don’t know how they expect us to conclude a new deal in that time, and the bottom line seems to be that they don’t.”
Mike Morris was unavailable for interview.