Around 50 staff at The Orchard Theatre in Dartford have been treated appallingly after being dismissed without warning, says UNISON.
HQ Theatres, which operates the venue on behalf of Dartford Borough Council, informed all staff on casual workers’ agreements that their services were no longer required.
They learned of the decision by email and there had been no prior consultation. Staff affected are amongst the lowest paid at the venue, with many among the theatre’s longest serving employees.
UNISON, the union representing workers at the Orchard Theatre, is concerned that communication with staff has been mismanaged and the rights of some to notice pay and redundancy pay have potentially been ignored.
The theatre has been closed since March 2020 but continues to receive significant financial support, says UNISON.
According to the union, this includes a monthly £30,000 management payment from Dartford Borough Council, a £244,576 grant in October 2020 from the Department of Media, Culture & Sport’s Cultural Recovery Fund, as well as significant funding from the government’s Job Retention Scheme and business rate relief.
UNISON South East regional organiser Simon Bolton said: “The decision to dismiss this group of staff at a time when the government has extended the furlough scheme and provided a road map for theatres to reopen is simply appalling.
“It is short sighted as well as grossly unfair to the people who’ve been sacked without any consultation. This is no way to treat loyal employees, many of whom have given years of service.
“Dartford Borough Council should urgently review its relationship with HQ Theatres because I don’t believe this decision reflects the values of the council.”
Notes to editors:
– HQ Theatres is owned by the Qdos Entertainment Group and is the second largest operator of provincial live theatres in the United Kingdom.
– Venues under HQ Theatre’s management on behalf of local authorities include: Cliffs Pavilion in Southend, G Live in Guildford, Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Bromley’s Churchill Theatre, Wycombe Swan Theatre, Hastings White Rock Theatre and Crewe Lyceum.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.