Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Next time stop and think before you have a coffee at the Tate

Today the Tate garnered some of the worst PR for an art museum that I've seen in a while - except from those who hang stolen art and/or are run by people who are fraudsters.

It's not up there with the Sackler debacle (re the Opioid crisis  and stripping the Sackler name from various art galleries and museums) but it has invited an awful lot of ridicule. Twitter has been red hot and articles appeared as the story gained notice.

In a nutshell, the Tate proposes to pay a "Head of Coffee" more than it pays its curators.

The story started with a piece in The Times (see above). Since then the story has been highlighted on Twitter by:
Articles about the proposed salary have been in:
Alan Leighton, Prospect national secretary, told The Daily Telegraph: “The pay discrepancy highlighted is a stark reminder, not that the head of coffee is paid too much but that highly qualified museum professionals are paid far too little. Across the sector it is clear that roles which exist in other sectors are paid well, while heritage-specific roles are paid appallingly. This cannot continue. Without these qualified specialist workers there would be no galleries and no museums. It’s time that was recognised and those roles rewarded accordingly.”

The Tate side of the story

This is the article - Slot Roasting Collective - which is about the coffee created for the Tate - and ostensibly why they need to employ a "head of coffee". I gather finding supplies and quality control of their own in-house grinding operation is one that requires knowledge and expertise

I wonder whether it also requires first and second degrees and considerable experience to be paid much less than this in a curatorial role related to the principal purpose of the Tate.

Tate Coffee is produced as part of the Tate Commerce operation whose objective is to
maximise profits and extend the value of the Tate brand, to support Tate’s work and collection
However coffee grinding does not make it in the Tate's overall strategy and vision statement for its main purpose.

Instead Tate Commerce states
We will make our vision reality by being:
  • Customer focused – prioritising and championing the needs of the customer
  • Open – to new ideas and perspectives; to calculated risk; encouraging exchange and collaboration
  • Interdependent – building on the strength and uniqueness that Tate brings, without losing sight of the benefits of enterprise
  • Global – connecting with the world through products and publications
  • Sustainable – looking to the long term and demonstrating operational responsibility
My view is that
  • Tate has not learned the salary lessons which the BBC had to - about how an enterprise which receives state funding MUST demonstrate that comparability in relation to responsibility when grading jobs and awarding salaries. 
    • The BBC is in the midst of paying out millions of pounds in response to those who have asserted that they been treated unjustly in an employment context. 
    • I'm wondering what the staff at the Tate might start doing in the near future now the union is involved
    • Could the Tate end up paying out a lot more money on salaries for curators in the near future - or will they cut curatorial jobs to finance the salaries of curators' jobs catching up with the "head of coffee"
  • The coffee collective idea is nice - but I'd love to see the actual numbers and whether or not it actually contributes significantly to the finances of the Tate. Maybe the commerce operation needs to have its financial targets stretched - and some criteria for what it can and cannot do spelt out rather more clearly?
  • I also wonder what will happen if visitors to the Tate start boycotting the coffee?
  • When it comes to comparability..... The individual who is critical to sourcing wild coffee plants for the entire world - including literally finding it in countries around the world - works at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and is the husband of a friend of mine. I'm just wondering whether what he'll think about the salary in question......

and finally......

I'm waiting for the inevitable T shirts with the slogans
Nice coffee - shame about the management

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