Mayhew’s heartless lack of concern for the well-being of experienced and skilled workers at the Barbican

Download as PDF

GMB condemns Corporation of London finance chief for telling staff to “buck up”

GMB London, the union for staff at the Barbican Arts Centre has condemned Jeremy Mayhew, finance chair at the Corporation of London, after he said staff should stop feeling sorry for themselves during the pandemic and "buck up".

When concerns were raised about staff morale at a recent Barbican board meeting, Mr Mayhew said that "it feels to me a bit self-pitying" and that most people "are fine", but that "most of us are going to be poorer" and that we should "cut our cloth where appropriate".

Anna Lee, GMB London Region Organiser said:

"Jeremy Mayhew's comments are outrageous and only go to show how completely out of touch the Corporation of London is and the contempt they have for the lowest paid.
"Those who run the Corporation live in a completely different reality to the rest of us and they think nothing of the staff who struggle to pay their bills and survive. They have refused to pay 100% salaries to furloughed casual staff at the Barbican, Tower
Bridge, Open spaces and other locations. This is despite the fact that furloughed contracted staff receive 100% pay.

"They have also said that anyone who was incorrectly paid 100% will have to pay that money back. Low-paid workers are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the Corporation's claims that they want to help the lowest-paid is disingenuous. Many people are facing terrible financial hardship and hearing Jeremy Mayhew telling them to 'buck up' is a real kick in the teeth.

"They are now also trying to renege on a three-year pay deal, blaming the pandemic and the government for their woes. However, they are spending millions of pounds on vanity projects, such as giving the Barbican a facelift and the new Museum of London, among many other projects.

"The Corporation is not as hard up as it pretends to be and could pay the staff a living wage and honour agreements made with the GMB. They have made a clear choice that it is the staff who will bear the costs of the pandemic. We demand that the Corporation issues a public apology for Jeremy Mayhew's disgraceful comments and starts paying the staff a living wage."

A GMB workplace rep said:

"Last year, the Barbican was able to reopen and present a Covid-safe program of events thanks to the dedication and hard work of its staff, including hundreds of casual front-of-house workers.

"The sadness and disappointment felt by all at having to close the building again this winter is aggravated by the City’s decision not to top up the furlough for its lowest paid staff, leaving them struggling below the London Living Wage in a pandemic, while expected to be ready to return to public facing roles when restrictions are lifted.

"We are appealing to the City to do the fair and compassionate thing and support all staff, but Jeremy Mayhew’s comments betray a heartless lack of concern for the well-being of our experienced and skilled colleagues. He dismisses both their worries and the efforts of all of us to organise a healthy and welcoming space where all Londoners can come to relax, learn and be entertained. That’s a place we all need right now."

A casual worker at the Barbican said:

"As a member of Barbican's casual workforce who has been genuinely worrying about my rent and bills while living hand-to-mouth on 80% furlough during this time. I feel his comments were ignorant at best, and cruel at worst.

"For a privileged man like Jeremy Mayhew getting poorer may mean fewer holidays.  For workers at the lowest end of the scale, like myself as a casual worker, getting 'poorer' means something much more drastic. I'm looking at a future where I'm not sure how I'll continue paying my bills."

GMB London is calling on Mr Mayhew for an apology for his outrageous comments and call on the board of the Corporation of London to consider the financial impact of living in London on wages that do not cover the basic needs of its workers. Casual workers employed by the Corporation must have pay parity with their furloughed contracted colleagues employed by the Corporation.



Anna Lee, Anna Lee, GMB London Region Organiser 078 7017 6720