Filmhouse workers demand redundancy pay

More than 50 people who lost their jobs when two cinemas in Scotland were closed are taking legal action demanding thousands of pounds of redundancy money.

They were made redundant on 6 October 2022 when the charity running Edinburgh Filmhouse, Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, suddenly collapsed and went into administration.

Now former staff have filed claims to an employment tribunal seeking “protective awards” — government money granted to those who have been made redundant without any notice or discussion. According to insiders, all the awards could amount to over £170,000.

The film trade union, Bectu, warned that abruptly being sacked had a “devastating” impact on people’s livelihoods. The lack of consultation and transparency around the redundancies was “unacceptable”, it said.

The redundancy payments are not being opposed by FRP Advisory, the firm that was called in to administer the charity, known as the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI). FRP said it was assisting former employees.

The Ferret revealed that more than two weeks before it collapsed in October, CMI rejected the idea of launching a public appeal for funds. It made a net loss of £333,000 in the four months to July 2022 and owed over £1m to staff and creditors after it went into administration.

Since 2020 CMI has been given over £5m in public grants, including £1.3m to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. Insiders suggested that the business had been struggling for years.

According to reports filed by FRP, 102 staff were made redundant when CMI collapsed. The Scottish law firm, Thompson Solicitors, is representing 37 of them.

Edinburgh Filmhouse. Image: Truus, Bob & Jan too!/flickr

Anxious time for filmhouse staff

“Where an employer proposes to dismiss 20 or more employees within a 90-day period, a duty to consult is triggered,” said the firm’s Paul Kissen.

“This required CMI to allow the employees to hold an election process where they could elect employee representatives who could have consulted with the employer about ways of avoiding, reducing or mitigating the consequences of the proposed dismissals.”

He added: “The company went into administration and no such election or consultation took place. This does not mean the company is not still liable.”

Another 20 former CMI employees are being represented by Bectu. “This has been an incredibly challenging and anxious time for our affected members,’ the union’s negotiations officer, Paul McManus, told The Ferret.

“We will continue to do everything we can to support them while we await a decision from the employment tribunal.”

He accused CMI and Creative Scotland of an “unacceptable” lack of consultation and transparency. “The CMI’s failure to fulfil its legal obligations to consult over the redundancies has had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of over 100 staff, many of whom are struggling to keep up with living costs following the shock announcement last year,” he said.

The loss of notice and the lack of transparency were a collective traumatic experience.

Jasmin, former member of staff

One member of CMI’s staff, who asked for her surname not to be used, was sacked just three days after starting work. Claiming a protective award was an attempt to “stand our ground and receive fairer treatment,” Jasmin said.

“The loss of notice, and more importantly the lack of transparency with the rest of the staff, were a collective traumatic experience for all CMI employees who were suddenly made redundant — especially the ones who had worked there for years and years and were the heart and soul of the organisation.”

The Scottish Government’s Creative Scotland pointed out it was not responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisations it funded. “All financial matters in relation to CMI are now in the hands of FRP, the appointed insolvency practitioners,” said a spokesperson.

“While we share everyone’s dismay at what has happened with CMI and the impact that this has had on staff, we cannot influence redundancy procedures which are governed by employment and insolvency law.”

When it collapsed, the chair of CMI’s board was Alastair Morrison, an Edinburgh lawyer. He declined to comment, and referred The Ferret to the FRP administrators.

An FRP spokesperson said: ”The joint administrators continue to assist the former employees with making claims for amounts due to them. They are aware of the protective award claim and have not objected to this claim being pursued.”

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