Belfast Telegraph

100 jobs at risk at Belfast's Grand Opera House as restoration works begin

The Grand Opera House
The Grand Opera House

By Eimear McGovern

Over 100 employees at Belfast's Grand Opera House are at risk of redundancy due to planned restoration works.

A spokesperson for the Opera House said one-to-one meetings with all staff are ongoing and that they appreciate it's 'an unsettling time for colleagues'.

Plans were announced to undertake a restoration process in early 2017, the first of its kind since the building was restored in the mid 1970s before being reopened in 1980.

It was given the go-ahead after securing £4.8 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in March 2019.

The Grand Opera House was the first building in Belfast to attain Grade A listed status, and is the only remaining Victorian theatre in Northern Ireland.

An 118 day consultation period identified 119 roles (some of which are dual roles) are at risk with 108 employees affected.

The spokesperson said a period of extended unpaid leave or voluntary redundancy has been offered, with enhanced payment terms of 30% above statutory entitlement.

Around 40 roles will be retained for operational reasons during the closure, which is expected to last ten months from January 2020.

"After detailed consideration of all possible options, the Grand Opera House Trust has concluded that there is a risk it will be unable to provide work for all employees during this period of temporary closure.

"Over the past three months the trust has been consulting with impacted employees and their representatives about this," said a spokesperson.

The Grand Opera House said they've assured staff of their commitment to regular engagement throughout the process.

"This project is designed to secure the future of the theatre for generations to come and the planned reopening will mark its 125th anniversary in December 2020.

“The restoration, due to start in January 2020, will result in the theatre having to close for a period of 10 months to allow for the necessary repairs, restoration and upgrade of facilities, and to install a new exhibition telling the Grand Opera House’s colourful history for the first time," said the spokesperson.

"We believe that we have reached a fair and balanced set of options while also recognising the current financial constraints of the trust, coupled with its charitable status obligations.

"We are encouraged by the response from many colleagues to our proposals so far and look forward to concluding the next phase of individual consultations so we can bring much-needed clarity to all concerned. We will continue to offer support services to our staff both during and after this time."




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