Workers at the country’s museums continue to be hit by layoffs as the coronavirus pandemic forces institutions to remain closed. Recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that it would conducting a second round of staff cuts.
On August 5, Artnet reported that the Met had laid off seventy-nine employees and furloughed 181 additional workers. Ninety-three staff members also took early retirement offers. Administration cited a $150 million deficit as the impetus for the layoffs.
These cuts come after eighty-one workers were laid off on April 22. Together both rounds of lay offs account for about twenty percent of the Met’s pre-closure staff, down to 1,600 employees from 2,000. Staff were let go from all departments within the museum, however, most cuts came from the retail, visitor services and security departments. Forty-eight percent of the workers laid off were people of color.
Met administration say that the cuts are necessary since staff salaries amount for sixty-five percent of the museum’s annual budget. The museum has also instituted a hiring freeze and director Max Hollein and president/ CEO Daniel H. Weiss have both had their salaries reduced by twenty percent.
In an email to employees, Hollein and Weiss wrote, “We have sought to delay these actions as long as possible to support our staff in the face of significant economic distress and medical concern in the spring when the pandemic first struck. Unfortunately, with staff salaries comprising around 65 percent of our annual budget, we are confronted by the difficult reality that reducing the size of our workforce and furloughing additional staff is the responsible next step to address our urgent financial challenges.”
The Met museum plans to reopen August 29, pending State and City approval. The museum will be open five days a week, Monday through Thursday. The institution has announced safety measures including reduced visitor capacity, additional cleaning procedures, and required face masks for all staff and visitors.