Gallery says funding cut entitled it to lay off chief

Wed, Aug 29, 2012, 01:00

A DUBLIN city art gallery has claimed it was entitled to make its chief executive redundant after a “bombshell” 35 per cent cut in Arts Council funding.

Temple Bar Gallery and Studios Ltd (TBGS), operator of a gallery and 30 artists’ studios in Temple Bar, denies claims by its former chief executive Marian Lovett that her redundancy of August 2010 was a “sham” or “contrived”.

Three new employment positions focusing on studios were created and Ms Lovett was fairly selected for redundancy, it claims.

The two-day hearing of Ms Lovett’s claim for redress for alleged unfair dismissal concluded yesterday before the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Judgment was reserved.

Ms Lovett was made redundant from her €48,000 a year post under a restructuring programme devised by the gallery’s board following the Arts Council funding cut.

The restructuring involved cutting staff from five to three and, in accordance with an Arts Council recommendation, deprioritising the gallery.

Ms Lovett argued against deprioritising the gallery and suggested an alternative programme of staff salary cuts and other measures, including raising funds from other sources. She denied her proposal of €120,000 for total staff costs was not viable in the context of the Arts Council funding being cut from €372,000 to €240,000.

In evidence yesterday, Ms Lovett said she was excluded from several TBGS board meetings on restructuring.

The board later informed staff three new positions would be filled internally and she was interviewed twice for the position of studio development manager, a post she regarded as involving the duties she held as chief executive.

It was a “foregone conclusion” she would not get the studio development manager post although she believed she was the most experienced candidate.

Having been told on June 21st, 2010 that her employment was being terminated, she was aghast at being asked not to work out her notice as she wished to complete projects and leave in a dignified way. When she attended the premises the following day, she was asked by TBGS board chairman Kenneth Deale what she was doing there and considered she was being told to leave, she said. She was very taken aback, left later that day and was “traumatised” by this experience.

Under cross-examination, she denied that following the appointment in 2008 of a studios liaison officer only a small percentage of her work as chief executive involved dealing with issues in the studios. Her executive functions continued to involve studio development, she said.

She agreed she had received communications from the board about restructuring but said she was not consulted about decisions taken. She agreed she had written to the Arts Council expressing concerns about matters within TBGS and said she had “no qualms” about that.

Peter Murray, director of the Crawford Gallery, said it was important the Temple Bar gallery remain open, given the importance of cultural tourism. TBGS continues to operate a gallery and studios, the tribunal heard.