Theatre staff told of job losses via FACEBOOK post

Theatre staff found out on Facebook that they were being made redundant by their heartless bosses.

Shocked staff at Southport Theatre who had been furloughed during the first Covid-19 pandemic lockdown were baffled when their employer, Bliss Space Southport, announced via social media they would be liquidating and staff would then be made redundant.

A tribunal has found Bliss broke employment law during the debacle and staff have now received a long awaited payout from their ex employers.

At the time Bliss Space Southport, the sister firm to the Bliss Hotel chain in Southport, took centre stage in their announcement which came completely out of the blue for their hard working furloughed staff.

Workers at Southport Theatre and Convention Centre (STCC), which was managed by Bliss Space (Southport) Limited, were placed on furlough in March 2020 for what they expected to be a temporary closure due to the national Covid-19 restrictions.

However, on 15 May 2020 the employer announced via their social media staff group page that the centre was closing permanently and the company was in liquidation. Following this, staff were contacted by the company’s liquidators to claim for their redundancy and notice pay.

The notice of closure came out of the blue to the 23 Bectu members at the STCC, so they contacted Bectu for advice. Bectu official, Adam Flanders, worked with Prospect’s legal team to submit claims to the employment tribunal over the employer’s failure to consult them.

Claim upheld and maximum pay awarded

“An employer is under a legal obligation to consult with the union or workplace representatives where they are making 20 or more redundancies over a ninety day period” explains Marion Scovell, Head of Prospect’s legal team. “Where an employer fails to consult, an employment tribunal can award up to ninety days pay to each employee”.

And that is exactly what happened in this case. The Judge upheld the claim and awarded each member the maximum ninety days pay.

Bectu official Adam Flanders said: “The press release Bliss Space issued made clear that they had been in discussions with the local authority for a couple of months prior to the closure, there is no excuse for them not warning the workforce.”

Justice and relief, following years of dedication

Lisa Kelly, front of house supervisor, and Vinny Whalley, technical supervisor, were two of the lead claimants in the case. They worked with Bectu and were delighted with the outcome for all the members.

Vinny said: “It offers each of us some justice and relief for the stress and worry we’ve all experienced in the last seven months since the liquidation and sudden loss of all our jobs, which we all had a very deep and long-standing commitment to. My heartfelt thanks go to the union who have guided us through this difficult process.”

Lisa added: “I am pleased we have finally got what we as employees of Bliss Space rightfully deserve after the years of dedication we have put into ensuring that visitors, conference attendees and touring companies enjoyed their visits to STCC.”

Recognising the work done by Lisa and Vinny on the case, Adam added: “I would like to thank our members who gave witness statements for stepping up to the plate for their colleagues. This case will serve as a strong reminder to employers that they must treat their workers with respect”.