18 September 2013
Workers at the Wallsend Memorial Hall and People’s Centre (The Mem) in North Tyneside have been in occupation over job losses and unpaid wages since last Friday 13 September.
In 2011 the board of trustees who run The Mem applied to the Social Investment Business (SIB), which is government funded, for a loan and grant of £1.45m to refurbish the centre. But the refurbishment was completed late and over budget, meaning the board had to apply for another loan from the SIB to cover the additional costs. The SIB responded by demanding that the board’s chief officer step down so that they could install their own change manager, who began making job cuts.
Under the SIB’s management, the Mem has been forced into receivership, making it illegal to incur any ‘additional costs’, such as staff wages. Initially, the SIB said they were prepared to pay worker’s wages.
But on Friday of last week they backtracked on this promise, leaving the 14 remaining staff unpaid and unemployed.
Workers are angry with SIB for refusing to pay their wages. Many also feel frustrated with the board of trustees for not standing up to SIB, and for failing to provide concrete information about the state of accounts and where exactly the funding went. Now workers, volunteers and users of The Mem have occupied the building.
At a public meeting organised by the board of trustees on Tuesday, six workers and supporters of the occupation were elected onto the board. The new board is to meet with SIB on Thursday (19/09/13) to demand payment of wages. The occupation will continue building until workers wages, jobs, and the future of the centre is secure.