Published: 11:28, 26 November 2020
| Updated: 13:18, 26 November 2020
Canterbury Cathedral has been accused of acting in an un-Christian way by showing the door to several workers on zero-hours contracts.
Bosses at the World Heritage Site removed front-of-house staff from its books at the start of the month - despite the government extending its furlough scheme.
A spokesman says it had decided to cut the team loose before the announcement, and deemed it “inappropriate” to keep them on while it was “still making difficult decisions about other roles”.
However, Anastasia Kuatkhina, who has worked at the site for 12 years and even served as the face of its marketing campaign, believes the Cathedral has left her and her former colleagues high and dry.
The 30-year-old said: “At the moment, so many places are closed that you can’t really look for a job, so it’s the worst time to let us go. During these hard times, they’ve thrown us out.
“If the government is offering to put us on furlough, I do not understand why they didn’t do that. It wouldn’t be much of a cost to them and it would give us the benefit of a salary to get us through these difficult times.”
Ms Kuatkhina also points to a grant of almost £1 million awarded to the Cathedral in October by the Culture Recovery Fund, to keep venues open and support those working in the heritage sector.
She and the team were informed they would no longer be needed on Monday, November 9.
“We were all devastated, shocked, outraged and nervous about the future because they didn’t give us any time to plan ahead,” she added.
“We were assuming we were returning to work, but instead we got let go. They’re not behaving in a Christian way or a helpful way.”
Ms Kuatkhina, who runs her own fashion firm Maison Magenta, added: “I count myself lucky because I’ve founded my own business - but for other people, that was their only income.”
The employees worked three shifts each week as the attraction’s “shepherds”, a group entrusted to welcome visitors as they entered the precincts.
Ms Kuatkhina was being paid £9.20 an hour and had been receiving between £200 and £800 a month while furloughed.
A Cathedral spokesman says the roles had been identified as being unviable under government guidelines as it prepared for the roll-out of the Job Support Scheme.
Bosses decided to follow through with their decision to let the team go, even though the scheme was shelved after the extension of furlough.
“As these shepherd roles had been identified as unsustainable, the Cathedral felt it inappropriate and unaffordable to return them to furlough while still making difficult decisions about other roles,” the spokesman said.
“We could no longer afford to retain our shepherds employed on as-and-when contracts, and had to make the difficult decision to end the agreements we had with them.
“Our shepherds have been valued colleagues whose hard work, passion and commitment was evident, and we are truly sorry to have to lose them.”
The Cathedral declined to reveal how many staff members had been furloughed or made redundant since March.