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Belfast's under-pressure MAC arts venue axing more than 40 workers

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The Mac in Belfast

The Mac in Belfast

The Mac in Belfast

More than 40 jobs are to go at one of Northern Ireland's leading arts venues because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) in Belfast is cutting the positions after lockdown restrictions closed the door on live events.

The move will mostly affect casual staff on zero-hours contracts, some of whom have been working at the MAC for up to five years, with the last six months spent on furlough.

Staff in the box office, front of house and the bar and cafe of the award-winning gallery and theatre were among those told at the start of this month that their contracts would not be renewed.

Other visitor attractions have taken similar action, including Titanic Belfast, which is going through a redundancy process affecting around 75 staff.

A spokesperson for the MAC told Sunday Life: "The MAC is taking all steps possible to ensure that it continues in business to realise the vision for which it was created.

"Given the significant loss of self-generated income as a result of Covid-19 enforced closure, we, like other venues, need to minimise costs accordingly.

"Regrettably, this means that difficult decisions need to be taken in relation to the staff team.

"Last week the MAC wrote to all of its furloughed casual staff members to advise them of its future staffing requirement.

"Our 43 casual staff members were notified that there will be no casual work available between now and the end of the year."

MAC chief executive Anne McReynolds added: "It is with deep regret that we have had to inform our outstanding casual team of this news.

"It will be many months before the MAC returns to its previous capacities and output, given that our theatre programme is entirely suspended while social distancing is a requirement that makes live theatre unworkable. As a result, some very difficult decisions around staff costs are unavoidable.

"We remain committed to protecting as many jobs as possible and will do all that we can to be resourceful in these challenging times to ensure our survival."

The venue reopened last week for the first time since lockdown with an exhibition of artwork by Ulster University arts graduates.

Ms Reynolds told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster earlier in the week that the venue would do all it could to keep customers and staff safe.

"The MAC is back. It's the same building, the same spectacular art, but it will obviously be Covid-compliant," she said

"We've got all sorts of measures in place to make sure that our customers and our artists and our entire staff team are kept as safe as it is possible for us to keep them.

"It will still be a great day out. We have wonderful exhibitions and our spectacular and award-winning cafe is open and ready for business, so the MAC is ready to open its doors in a cautiously optimistic way.

"This sector is completely united in that we are in this together - no one part of this sector can be favoured over the other."

Ms Reynolds added the reopening was a day of both "great joy" and "apprehension".

Sunday Life