Exterior of Antony, Cornwall, National Trust Properties. Credit: Andrew Butler

Prospect calls on National Trust to pay living wage

Geraldine Kendall, 05.11.2014
Heritage body urged to make commitment ahead of AGM
The union for staff employed by the National Trust has called on the organisation to pay the living wage to all of its workers.

Prospect, which represents the trust’s employees, claims that low pay within the organisation has left many workers “struggling below the poverty line”.

The living wage, which is calculated as the amount an individual needs to earn to cover the basic costs of living, increased by 20p per hour this week, bringing it to £7.85 per hour (£9.15 per hour in London).

The union called on the trust’s board of trustees to take a stand on the issue ahead of its AGM on 8 November.


Should museums pay all staff the living wage?

John Stevenson, Prospect’s negotiations officer, said: “The living standards of employees have plummeted in real terms despite the good financial performance of the organisation.

“These are the guardians of our national heritage, yet they are left to struggle on with wages from a bygone era. Aside from the fact it is morally right, if we learn anything from history, it should be that getting money into people’s pockets is essential to securing a strong economic recovery.”

The National Trust, which has a workforce of 12,000, said 83% of its regular employees are already paid the living wage.

In a statement, it said: “As a charity, we value all our staff and each year we ask them how they feel about working for the National Trust across a wide range of topics including pay, and 94% tell us they are satisfied with their working conditions.

"But we recognise we can always do more, and we will continue to work closely with our employees to look at how we could improve further."


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10.11.2014, 16:06
In my opinion, as I also posted on the LinkedIn discussion, a related and very significant question is why we, as a field, allow and even encourage all our entry level work to be done by volunteers. I know it is good financially and it is good for community involvement, ( those sections of the community that can afford not to get paid), but it is killing our profession. The American Alliance of Museums boasts that in the USA "1 million hours a week are donated by volunteers"
Katie Davenport-Mackey
Liaison Officer, Lithoscapes Archaeological Research Foundation
10.11.2014, 18:21
You raise a very interesting point about early career development, but I wonder if the commercialisation of museums has also lead to the rise in volunteers?
MA Member
10.11.2014, 16:26
The National Trust also recruits 'volunteers' and 'interns' with specific advanced professional skills for no pay. These are actual jobs but we feel we can ask them to do it for free as there are so many professionals looking for work. I've never agreed with this policy.
10.11.2014, 14:09
All staff should be paid no less than the living wage!
10.11.2014, 13:39
There's an interesting discussion about this going on over on the MA's LinkedIn page - http://mus.ms/1ypKnRK
07.11.2014, 15:08
I have been trying to find paid work in the museums sector since 2011 and apart from voluntary work, I have only managed to get one temporary contract for the Natural History Museum who pays £6.31 for temporary staff.

If this museum and other museums in the sector want staff to be professional and to gain training qualifications, then staff should expect to receive a salary which covers their living costs. Most employers in the sector are in large cities and towns and therefore, will use alot of casual staff in addition to employing staff on fixed-term and permanent grants. Thes staff tend to be either committed to a career in the museum sector after university studies or who've changed careers. These people need to have financial incentives to stay against the training and networking opportunities offered.
06.11.2014, 11:22
NT and English Heritage pay very low wages for the professional skills they demand. As two of the biggest players, the are artificially deflating heritage salaries across the industry.
Roger Watson
MA Member
Curator, Fox Talbot Museum
06.11.2014, 10:23
No one should work for less than a living wage.
Damian Gaster
MA Member
06.11.2014, 08:05
By this presumably is meant all staff should be paid no less than the living wage.
05.11.2014, 23:36
not paying someone as a human goes against the preservation concept an institution like this is showcasing
Katie Davenport-Mackey
Postgraduate Research Student, School of Archaeology & Ancient History
05.11.2014, 23:20
I think many museums and galleries are guilty of paying poverty wages to part-time and full-time workers who often have their roles filled by volunteers. Museum employees need organisations like the MA to raise such issues, but as long as museums are run on a commercial basis I envisage significant problems ahead.
Judith Martin
Project Organiser, Industrial Buildings Preservation Trust
05.11.2014, 19:22
The NT is awash with retired volunteers. That's fine - I'm not suggesting they're taking jobs that could be done for the living wage by younger people. But anyone of working age, working for an august institution like this, should be properly employed and properly paid. The NT has enough advantages already. They also need to avoid undercutting, or setting a rotten precedent for, the new English Heritage, which will have charitable status and is clearly based on the NT model.
MA Member
05.11.2014, 19:11
All employers should pay the living wage, regardless of whether they are a museum or not, however, the National Trust is very guilty of appalling pay. An ex partner of mine worked for the NT and scraped by on his pitiful wages, often working 40+ hours a week for no extra pay and rarely taken time in lieu (because it was not the done thing to claim the time back). "You do it for the love of the trust" maybe, but that does not pay the bills, and is quite frankly insulting to people's skills, training and experience. If I were to do the equivalent job in the NT that I did in local authority museums (where the pay was still poor), I would take a £5-7,000 pay drop - to do the same job! Not going to happen even in this climate. The excuse that they are a charity also doesn't wash. I have recently worked for a medium sized charity where the pay was better than my museum jobs. Medium and large charities, of which the NT is one, offer wages far in excess that the NT does, with lower working hours, good working conditions and time of in lieu willingly granted. It is about time the NT were pulled up on the way they treat their employees - it has got away with it for too long.
05.11.2014, 18:04
I think what the key term in the National Trusts statement is "regular employees". What about all of the seasonal staff that they take on, who become fully fledged members of their teams, play a vital role in the running of their site and yet still get zero hours contracts and the pitiful £6.50 minimum wage? Obviously they still aren't classed as important enough to be given a proper wage. Disgraceful.
Laura Humphreys
MA Member
CDA PhD Candidate, Geffrye Museum & Queen Mary, University of London
05.11.2014, 16:44
Agree wholeheartedly with the comment from Mark Clifford on twitter. The NT are far from alone in this, but they regularly offer 'volunteer' roles that are jobs in all but wage, with only the promise of something to put on your CV or working in an inspiring environment as payment. In London & the South East in particular, only affluent locals could ever afford to take on these roles.

Quite apart from not valuing the hard work and enormous contribution people bring to the heritage sector, underpayment and over-reliance on volunteers seriously impacts the diversity of the heritage workforce. It means the guardians of our national heritage don't reflect that heritage at all.
Rebecca Atkinson
MA Member
Online Publications Editor, Museums Association
05.11.2014, 15:59
Comment from Twitter regarding whether museums should pay all staff the living wage:

Mark Clifford: Pay them a wage at all would be a start ie. Zero hours contracts, exploiting volunteers and internships etc