Museums Controversies United Kingdom

Liverpool gallery swaps staff for volunteers

FACT accused of laying off paid staff while recruiting for 70 volunteers

The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology

The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (Fact) in Liverpool has been accused of swapping paid jobs for volunteer posts. According to a report in the Liverpool Echo newspaper, the media arts centre laid off many of its front-of-house staff, including 11 who were on controversial zero-hours contracts (employed but not guaranteed work).

The report quoted a source close to the staff as saying: “Those affected were all really upset. They were very angry. The advertising for the volunteers says they will pay travel expenses and people will get work experience out of it.”

In response to an open letter of complaint, a statement on Fact’s website says that the centre has lost 60 paid casual hours per week, the equivalent of 1.5 full-time positions, and that only two workers are no longer in paid employment. The centre will be taking on 70 volunteers, according to the statement.

A Fact spokeswoman told The Art Newspaper that six staff are on zero-hours contracts. From the volunteer pool, around “three to four will be in the building at any one time”. Fact says it will provide training in “mini-arts management, customer service and mental health first aid”, available to all volunteers.

The Liverpool Echo report quoted Fact’s executive director Iona Horsburgh as saying: “We will retain a pool of paid staff to support on events, but understand that others will now be moving onto their next opportunity.”

Fact also encourages visitors to its website to contribute content for free. In a section headed “Write for Fact”, it asks “Are you interested in writing about film, art, technology and social engagement?” It continues: “sometimes we publish articles from volunteer contributors who can help us make content as rich and interesting as possible.” The section makes it clear that “we can’t pay contributors” but promises bylines, social media links and access to exhibition tours.

The centre is scheduled to host an open discussion on volunteering on 24 June.

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