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Government must act over Covid 19 arts crisis – Fawcett

Lowry CEO Julia Fawcett. Pic: Nathan Chandler
Lowry CEO Julia Fawcett. Pic: Nathan Chandler

The chief executive of The Lowry in Salford has unveiled a proposal to support the arts centre’s entire contracted workforce until the building can reopen.

In a video message, Julia Fawcett OBE vowed to “fight for every job” while tackling the biggest financial crisis in the art sector’s history.

With the Lowry’s two theatres, studio and galleries closed since March 17, the centre is operating with a skeleton staff and the Government’s job retention scheme has provided a vital lifeline. The Salford Quays building has been one of few organisations to have maintained full salary payments for contracted staff since March by topping up Government contributions.

Outlining her plan to launch a Lowry-funded job retention scheme from November 1 – the day after the government scheme is currently set to close – Fawcett pledged staff would be back at their posts “as soon as possible”.

“Government needs to act,” said Fawcett. “As it stands today there is no plan for the arts sector following the end of the Job Retention Scheme. We will do what we can to support our staff with a Lowry Retention Scheme – but this will in no way match the scale of the Chancellor’s scheme.”

The Lowry has around 222 full-time-equivalent contracted staff, the proposals for whom include maintaining continuity of service, employee benefits and pension contributions.

The centre’s 300-strong volunteer force remains on pause;  casual staff in the venue’s catering, box office and front of house departments will remain on furlough until October 31. The Lowry will introduce top-up payments in August as the Government contribution tapers, to maintain casual staff on 80 per cent of their average annual weekly wage.

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