Redundancies and reduced opening hours at Science Museum Group sites

Organisation to cut between 65 and 95 posts in first phase of strategic review
Covid-19 Financial Crisis Science
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries at the Science Museum in London
Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries at the Science Museum in London Trustees of the Science Museum Group

The Science Museum Group has announced a series of measures to reduce the scale of its operations in order to cope with the financial impact of the Covid pandemic.

In the first phase of a six-month strategic review, the organisation is proposing to cut at least 65 full-time equivalent positions, which it says could result in a maximum of 95 redundancies. More positions will be cut in subsequent phases of the review.

In a statement this week, the organisation said: “This is a step we take with huge reluctance; recognising the pain it will cause colleagues who contribute so deeply to our mission. This concern will inform our approach to this difficult period, which will involve constructive engagement with colleagues and our recognised trade unions.”

In addition to shrinking its workforce, the organisation’s five museums will operate under reduced opening hours when they reopen following the current lockdown, only opening for five days a week outside of holiday periods until March 2022.

The statement said: “The entrepreneurial spirit behind the transformation of our Group over the past decade, that saw us grow the proportion of self-generated income to cover half of our annual turnover, cannot resist the financial impact of this pandemic.

“We have lost around £23m in expected revenues this year from hugely successful activities such as corporate events, fundraising and retail and our forecasts for next year suggest revenues will be down by around £15m. With ongoing restrictions and the deep impact on international tourism, it will be several years before we can return to a position of strength.”

The organisation said that moving forward it planned to focus “on the great benefit we bring to our audiences: to the wellbeing of communities across the country; to the wider economy and tourism industry; and through inspiring future generations of scientists, technicians and engineers whose vital importance in addressing global challenges has been so starkly illustrated by this terrible pandemic”.

The union Prospect, which represents many staff at the organisation, said the announcement showed that further targeted support for the sector is “desperately needed” from government.

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Prospect negotiator Sharon Brown said: “This is awful news for those workers affected but is indicative of a sector which has been devastated by Covid.

“Prospect has been working with the Science Museum Group throughout this crisis to ensure that when it can open its museums it does so safely. But with tourism all but absent and a second lockdown in effect in England, footfall was always going to be extremely badly affected.

“Prospect will be working with the employer to ensure the best possible terms for those who lose their jobs, to minimise redundancies, and make sure as many as possible of those are voluntary rather than compulsory.

“The government has to recognise that with no way of generating sufficient external income, further targeted support for the sector is desperately needed. SMG is an extremely high profile organisation and if it is in trouble, then many smaller institutions will be in real danger of folding completely.”

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