Resurgent live music sector faces staff shortages
UK industry bodies including LIVE (Live music Industries Venues and Entertainment), the Concert Promoters Association, the Events Industry Forum and the UK Crowd Management Association have written to the prime minister regarding what they describe as crippling staff shortages across large parts of the UK economy.
The live entertainment and events associations are joined by trade bodies representing other sectors, including hospitality, food and drink and retail, in calling for government action to help remediate the situation, with the letter suggesting that EU workers could be allowed to return on a short-term basis to help fill the empty roles.
“While the overall picture is complex, one short-term solution with immediate benefit would be to temporarily ease immigration requirements for the large numbers of workers, particularly from the EU, who have returned to their homelands during the lockdowns. This has contributed greatly to the shortfalls,” reads the letter, which can be read here.
“Indeed, a study in 2020 by the UK’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence estimated that 1.3 million migrants left the UK between July 2019 and September 2020. This figure was based on UK labour statistics, and represents over 4% of the UK workforce.
“Unfortunately, evidence suggests that those unemployed within the UK workforce seem unwilling to take on many of the jobs where there are vacancies in the industries we represent. To help resolve this we ask that all those who have worked in the UK over the last three years are given the freedom to return to work here with less restrictive immigration regulations on a short-term basis.
“One short-term solution with immediate benefit would be to temporarily ease immigration requirements”
“A relaxation of the rules does not need to be open ended but it needs to happen quickly if we are to support the recovery of the UK economy.”
The letter comes as entertainment and hospitality businesses in other countries also warn they are facing a staff shortage as they begin to reopen this summer.
In the Netherlands, live music association VNPF is warning that the industry will likely be short of staff when full-capacity shows restart later this year, with many professionals having left the industry over the past 16 months.
Both venues and festivals are short of people, VNPF director Berend Schans tells NU.nl, with the former sector having laid off an average of 20% of their staff last year and the latter probably even more. “Exact figures are lacking, but because that industry [festivals] has been hit even harder than venues, and they have received relatively less government support, I would say that the situation there is even more serious, especially in view of the lay-offs at Mojo Concerts and ID&T, for example.”
Similarly, France, the US and New Zealand are all facing post-pandemic labour shortages, particularly in the hospitality sector, and while the issue has been exacerbated by Brexit in the UK, experts have been warning of shortages for months.
“This will need a government intervention to ensure that the industry has the ability to provide enough staff”
The UK Door Security Association (UKDSA) said back in march that venues and clubs could face trouble reopening as planned following an exodus of security staff during the pandemic.
In addition to EU workers who have gone home, many qualified door staff were forced to find work elsewhere when venues were closed in March 2020.
According to the Security Industry Authority (SIA), over a quarter of the UK’s total security workforce were non-UK nationals in 2018. The UKDSA estimates that over half of the vacancies in the sector may be left unfilled when business restarts gets back to normal later this summer.
“This will need a government intervention to ensure that the industry has the ability to provide enough staff,” says Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association. Concerning new elements in the SIA door supervisor licence which require more training for door staff, Kill adds: “While the training is welcomed, it is not timely given the current economic situation across most of the sector, and consideration needs to be given to it being pushed back to 2022.”
Read IQ’s feature on the challenges of recruiting and restaffing post-pandemic in the latest, 100th issue of the magazine.
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Security today: distraction and stagnation
“What has changed since Manchester?” It’s a good question, with a mixed answer. An awful lot has changed. But the bigger question is: “Has it all been beneficial?”
The answer, according to many of my colleagues, would be a simple “no” – and I would have to agree. Yes, a lot of good work has been done, but the direction and focus has often been confused.
Better CCTV, behavioural detection, closer relationships (in some places) with police and some re-engagement have undoubtedly been among the improvements. One really positive action has been the closer scrutiny by safety advisory groups (SAGs) into matters of event security – although the advice has not always been quite as helpful as it might be if SAG members had some training and better understanding of events.
So much money, time and effort has been spent in keeping ramming vehicles away from crowds that other risks have been side-lined and the ‘old-fashioned’ model of risk assessment seems to have been lost in the process. Of course, the consequences of a vehicle attack are likely to be catastrophic, but how great is the likelihood of it occurring? When we look at the risk of drugs, weather and all the other methods of terrorism delivery, the ramming attack risk must be placed within a range of threats and assessed properly. Yet, for the last two years, it seems to have been almost the only focus of many who give security advice for events.
It has taken the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, to push for a wider review of event security overall, under the banner of ‘Martyn’s law’, after one of the victims of the Manchester attack.
I write this as the director of Gentian Events Limited, but I am also the chair of the United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA), a group whose sole purpose is to try to keep crowds safe wherever they gather. The UKCMA wrote to Mr Burnham offering support for his cause two months ago and we are hopeful he will take us up on that offer.
When we look at the risk of drugs, weather and all the other methods of terrorism delivery, the ramming attack risk must be placed within a range of threats and assessed properly
We do believe more can be done, but a knee-jerk instigation of measures that are not commensurate with the threat cannot be the way.
For the last two years, we have exposed hundreds of thousands to lengthy waits outdoors in extremes of heat and rain while enhanced searches have been implemented. We may have deterrred and kept out terrorists, but we have created far higher-density crowds in vulnerable locations outside while doing so.
Worse in many ways, we have ‘locked down’ open street events by blocking off roads with concrete blockers, vans and HGVs to prevent hostile vehicle attacks. To date, none of those crowds have been impacted by other incidents, because if we had another Manchester, or a firearms/knife attack, a building fire, gas explosion or a drone crashing during these events, our policy of ‘run, hide, tell’ would immediately fail as people run towards blocked exit routes.
In the context of crowds, we are certainly seeing more ‘stampede-like’ behaviour, as frightened people misunderstand what their senses or other information sources are telling them and just run: The Black Friday 2017 incident at Oxford Circus in London (60+ injured as they “escaped” from an innocuous fight); the crowd-initiated evacuation at Global Gathering in New York (a fallen barrier sounding like a gun, with seven injured); and, just last month, self-evacuations at Bank tube station in London (another fight), and 22 injured in New York when a motorbike backfired. Free-running crowds will hurt themselves and each other. But if they run into a dead end caused by hostile-vehicle mitigation measures, the consequences will be worse.
So, yes, things have changed – and, in some ways, improved. But there is much more to do. We are doing our best, but the security industry cannot do this alone: we need help and we need to work together to improve.
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New chair for UK Crowd Management Association
The United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA) has elected Eric Stuart as chairperson, succeeding Showsec’s Mark Harding.
Gentian Events director Stuart steps up following a ten-year tenure for Harding at the head of the association, which represents more than 40 British crowd-management firms.
UKCMA achievements over the past decade include the creation of National Occupational Standards and subsequent event industry qualifications, while Harding was also seconded to the SIA Strategic Advisory Group and will continue his work with the Safety Industry Authority.
He comments: “It has been an honour chairing the UKCMA throughout a decade of hard work; receiving SIA recognition has been ground-breaking for the industry.
“The future is very bright at the UKCMA”
“The commercial acumen and industry knowledge of the membership provides a solid platform for the new chairperson to take the association to the next stage of development.”
Other UKCMA personnel changes include Steve Blake of Storm4Events joining Tony Ball of SES Group (Show and Event) as a second vice-chairperson to support Stuart.
Anne Marie Chebib, who remains in post as secretary of the UKCMA, says: “The association sends immense thanks to Mark Harding for his tireless efforts over many years, and the support he continues to show in an ambassadorial role to ensure continuity for the organisation.
“We are also extremely excited to welcome Eric Stuart into role as the new chairperson and the creation of a new vice-chairperson role to support. The future is very bright at the UKCMA. We look forward to continuing improvement for all members and stakeholders”.
Security at “max capacity” after 40% drop in licence renewals
Britain is facing the prospect of a shortage of qualified event security staff following a sharp drop in the number of Security Industry Authority (SIA) licences being reissued.
Licence renewals have fallen almost 40% since 2013, according to a report published by the United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA) – a situation which, if allowed to continue, could have a “dramatic” effect on safety at venues and large events in the UK.
“Given the ongoing heightened security threat levels, the traditional government security services are heavily supplemented by private providers,” reads the report, which follows a February 2017 survey by the University of Derby, backed by UKCMA and the Football Safety Officers Association (FSOA) that sought to explain the “diminishing numbers” of stewards in the UK. “[T]he impact of diminishing numbers of trained security personnel could be dramatic.”
The six key reasons cited for the difficulty in retaining security workers are poor rates of pay; irregular work patterns; the casual nature of the workforce; competition; the cost of qualifications; and the availability of qualified staff. The report suggests the event security sector “seems to be struggling with financial viability, which is impacting on pay and training budgets”.
This lack of qualified stewards is corroborated by UKCMA’s membership, who told the association that, “especially over the busy summer period” many security providers have been working at “maximum capacity”.
“The government needs to collaborate with industry authorities on an action plan to address the deficiencies in skills and numbers of security personnel”
Showsec managing director Mark Harding, who is also chairman of UKCMA, says it’s “encouraging that the industry has recognised there is a problem, as this acquisition of evidence is all in the interest of public safety. The next stage is to engage stakeholders to find solutions.”
Solutions suggested by UKCMA include diverting money from the apprenticeship levy, which it says is “unsuitable for supporting the night-time economy”, to training more security staff; creating new, more flexible, qualifications as an alternative to the standard NVQ; and ensuring the private security sector has the “necessary resources” to meet the increase in demand following a string of terrorist attacks.
“The government needs to collaborate with industry authorities on an action plan to address the deficiencies in skills and numbers of security personnel,” continues Harding. “The private industry must have the capability and capacity to meet not only ongoing business, but [also] any upsurge in demand caused by one-off incidents.”
A panel at the upcoming Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S), The 3 Rs: Reaction, Response & Recovery, questions whether there is a shortage of trained security personnel and resources. E3S takes place at the Intercontinental Hotel at The O2 in London on 10 October.