National Trust jobs at threat over Covid-19

National Trust jobs at threat over Covid-19

14 October 2020

NATIONAL Trust staff across the district are waiting to find out how many could potentially lose their jobs as part of cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trust — which owns and manages the Castleward estate outside Strangford and Saintfield’s Rowallane Garden — has confirmed that there will be 72 redundancies among its staff in Northern Ireland.

The organisation — which has described the cuts as “unavoidable” —  is planning to shed 1,300 jobs across the UK as part of a plan to save about £100m a year.

National Trust Northern Ireland Director, Heather McLachlan, said that of the 72 local redundancies, 51 are voluntary and 21 are compulsory. She said it was a “very sad day” and paid tribute to staff who are leaving.

“This is an unavoidable outcome of the exceptionally challenging times all charities, businesses and wider society are facing due to the pandemic,” said Ms McLachlan.

Non-essential businesses and leisure facilities across Northern Ireland were ordered to close in late March as the first wave of coronavirus took hold, with National Trust parks and gardens reopening to the public at the start of June.

To coincide with the reopening, new safety measures had to be introduced across Trust properties to prevent the spread of infection which included a requirement for visitors to book in advance in order to guarantee admission to some sites.

Currently, the National Trust has 570 employers which means it is losing almost 13% of its employees.

At this stage, the organisation could not yet say how many of the Northern Ireland workers affected by redundancy are full-time staff.

Ms McLachlan said that since lockdown measures eased, the Trust has reopened many of its venues where it is safe and practical to do so.

She added: “It’s clear from the response from our members and the general public that the access we provide to nature, beauty and history is so important for our health and wellbeing.

“The measures we have had to announce today will ensure that our charity can continue to fulfil this mission for the long term.”

Downpatrick area councillor DerMoT Curran said the tourism sector had been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is disappointing that a number of people who work locally could lose their jobs as a result of the National Trust cuts,” he continued.

“The Newry, Mourne and Down area relies heavily upon tourism and we can only hope that there will be a vaccine for this terrible virus to allow some semblance of normality to return to all sectors next year, especially tourism.”

Cllr Curran added: “Many people have lost their jobs to the virus which recent figures have revealed is very prevalent in our local council area. Given this, I would appeal to people to continue to exercise good hand sanitation, wear a mask covering their nose and face and to social distance.”