'Petrified' Tate staff blame new managers

Complaints that managers brought in to cut costs have brought with them a whole new regime designed to 'get rid of people'

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The Independent Online

A former employee at the Tate galleries has claimed that staff at the institution are "going through hell" and that its reputation is on the line, after The Independent yesterday exposed an alleged culture of bullying implicating senior managers.

The long-serving employee claimed to be one of several staff recently dismissed or suspended from a Tate department among those from which bullying allegations have emerged.

The former Tate employee said bullying continued within certain sections of the institution, despite the recent adoption of a "dignity and respect" policy. The problems relate to the employment of consultants brought in to make savings under government cutbacks implemented last year.

"There are people there who are going through hell," the former employee said. "The Tate's reputation is on the line. I blame the Tate's directors for not realising what is going on. It has all been swept under the carpet, despite the rigmarole which has been going on".

The former employee added that there was a "horrendous" atmosphere created by "callous and cold" management styles, and age discrimination and unfair demands. The worker said she had suffered from panic attacks and anxiety, and was forced to take time off work through stress before leaving the organisation late last year.

A current staff member said yesterday that workers were "petrified", and that disciplinary procedures for allegedly minor offences were being used to cut numbers. "They've put new management in from the private sector – we've always had public sector managers – and they have a whole new regime as a ploy to get rid of people," the employee said.

Further details have emerged of the Tate's most recent staff survey, completed in November last year. According to a report by the research company ORC International completed in January, only 26 per cent of 586 Tate staff taking part felt their pay was "reasonable" compared with people in similar jobs in other organisations.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said gallery staff "need a supportive environment free from bullying and unacceptable management practice. PCS will continue to support any members who are victims of bullying at the Tate galleries or anywhere else".

Tate said in an earlier statement: "While our most recent staff survey revealed our results in relation to dignity and respect issues are in line with those for similar organisations, any instance of bullying or harassment at Tate is unacceptable."