Industrial action continues at Bradford museums
Tilda Coleman, 05.12.2019
Staff at the Museum of London Archaeology unit have also voted to strike
Staff at Bradford Council’s museums and libraries are staging the last in a series of strikes this week.
Members of the union Unite already took nine days of strike action across October and November to protest the council’s plans to cut Bradford’s museums and libraries budget by 65%.
On Tuesday and Friday this week strikes will take place at the city’s 14 libraries and museums. On Monday, a targeted strike took place at one library, and Wednesday and Thursday will also see strikes at single locations.
According to Unite, the council cuts will result in redundancies, pay cuts and erode employment conditions for staff. The city's bid to host the UK City of Culture festival in 2025 has caused further tensions among museum and library staff, who have said the council should be investing in its frontline services.
In a press release, the union said public opinion is key to solving the dispute, and that the public has been very supportive of the strikes.
Unite regional officer Mark Martin said: “We know that more than 100 members of the public have sent letters to their local council to get back round the table and to stop cuts to the service.”
Relations between the union and the council have not improved, however. Unite said the council has not yet engaged in constructive negotiations with its representatives.
The union’s representative for Bradford museums and galleries, Lauren Padgett, said: “There is a sense of frustration that management is not willing to listen to and work with the staff and the public, and reconsider this year’s proposals which are unworkable and which will result in libraries, museums and a gallery service that is not fit for purpose.”
A Bradford council spokesperson said that the council met with Unite following the second set of strike action, but that “unfortunately they were unable to put through any new options at this meeting”.
Padgett said that since the strikes begun, the council has continued to implement a new workforce structure which has caused redundancies, some among curatorial, collections and technical staff in Bradford museums and galleries. She added that the cuts will result in the city’s museums being shut for more days of the week, reducing access for visitors.
The spokesperson from Bradford council said: “We agree that public opinion is crucial for shaping the future of our libraries service. The proposals for savings of 39% within libraries have to be seen in the context of significant reductions in government funding for council services.”
The council is currently holding a consultation, set to close on Friday 20 December, on the future of the service, after which they will develop and publish detailed proposals.
Museum of London Archaeology
Members of the union Prospect at the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) will also strike this Christmas.
The industrial action was prompted by Mola executive managers failing to deliver on promises to implement a new pay structure by April, which would have seen a rise in pay and a cost of living award for staff.
In Prospect’s statement on the strike, the union’s deputy secretary Garry Graham said: “Mola is in crisis with experienced staff leaving and market share in London going to its main competitor, which pays archaeologists £2,000 more per year.”
He added: “Industrial action is the only avenue left to members to improve things.”
A spokesperson from Mola said: “We are confident that our contingency plans will mean we can continue with all essential work at this time. We respect the right of our staff to take this action and are fully compliant with our role and responsibility.”