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Midlands Arts Centre (mac) workers campaign against mass job losses

An injury to one is an injury to all | 26.03.2008 16:11 | Culture | Workers' Movements | Birmingham

The Midlands Arts Centre (mac), established in 1962, is the most visited arts centre in the Midlands with over 500,000 visitors a year. Mac is a non-profit arts centre situated in Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston, Birmingham. It is due to close for around 18 months for a £13.5 million refurbishment in April 2008. Mac has had to fundraise money for what it terms is the 'refurbishment of our home'. As you negotiate your way through the exhibition spaces and the bar, donation bins catch your eye and urge "If you love mac as much as we love you, please help by supporting our Appeal". The role of mac's loyal and hard working staff, however, doesn't appear to feature in management's plans for a "bigger and better mac".

MAC's workforce are fighting for their jobs next month when the centre closes for refurbishment. Members of the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) have launched a campaign to save jobs. They took this decision after mac's management refused to guarantee their re-engagement when the mac reopens after its refurbishment in 2009.

BECTU has been in negotiations with mac management for five months. The union wants to reach an agreement which guarantees that all staff who lose their jobs when the centre closes in April 2008, will be offered the right to return when the facility reopens next year.

BECTU has negotiated similar agreements in many venues across the country and closer to home at the Birmingham Hippodrome and at the Coventry Belgrade. The union sees no reason why the right to return should not be made available to staff at the mac.

“BECTU is very disappointed that management is not prepared to recognise the commitment and loyalty which workers have shown over many years to the arts centre.” explained BECTU national official Lynne Korniak.

“Staff have helped to deliver successful arts programmes and facilities to the community and often in difficult circumstances. They have also been fully supportive of management’s plans to improve the centre.” Lynne Korniak continued.

BECTU has proposed that workers be invited to return to existing, or broadly similar jobs, following the £13.6 million redevelopment. However management is only offering staff an interview where they meet the job description and person specification.

“BECTU members have rejected this proposal as this places them in no better position than external applicants. This poor offer demonstrates the lack of commitment which management have to staff who have shown 100% loyalty to the mac.” commented Lynne Korniak.

The current arts centre building has declined in recent years and despite this staff have worked hard to deliver a good service. Approximately 80 full-time jobs are affected but staff numbers can rise to 190 depending on the time of year and the nature of the programme.

Staff were advised in September 2007 that they were to be made redundant in April 2008; they did not imagine for one moment that they would not be part of the plans for a “bigger and better mac”.

The staff’s campaign will seek the support of the local community and the local authority in the hope that mac’s management will think again about their future relationship with current staff.

To show your support for BECTU members at the mac please sign their petition which can be found at

An injury to one is an injury to all