More than 100 workers at the British Museum are to strike during February half-term in an escalation of the long-running national dispute over public sector pay and employment terms.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union at the museum will take seven days of industrial action from 13-19 February.
PCS has warned that the strike, which will affect the institution’s visitor services and security teams, could lead to the closure of the building during the final weeks of its blockbuster hieroglyphs exhibition.
A British Museum spokesman said the museum would open on a phased basis during the strike.
“This industrial action is part of a nationwide dispute across the public sector and focuses on matter that are common across the sector and outside the control of the museum,” said the spokesman.
“We have a carefully rehearsed operational plan in place to respond to any staff shortages on strike days. That plan prioritises a safe and secure opening of the museum on a phased basis. We will endeavour to keep visitors informed of any disruption on our website with updates throughout the day.”
The British Museum strike is intended to pile further pressure on the government following the planned industrial action by more than 100,000 civil servants across England, Scotland and Wales on 1 February, including many from museum and heritage sector organisations. The walkout will be the largest such action by the civil service in a decade.
PCS says its members are campaigning for a 10% pay rise in light of the cost of living crisis, as well as pensions justice, job security and no cuts in redundancy terms.
“Museum, library, gallery staff and civil servants in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are going on strike across the culture sector after a decade of pay freezes, funding cuts and endless precarious work,” said Gareth Spencer, president of the PCS Culture Group.
“This Tory government is content to exploit our members and their institutions as pawns in their conflated culture wars but are not prepared to raise pay above inflation. We say enough is enough. We want a fair pay deal for all our members across the sector.
“We call on the members and supporters of the Museums Association to back our strikes and demand better pay for culture workers.”
“We warned ministers that our action would spread if they ignored our demands, and we’re good to our word,” PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said.
“In failing to come to the table with any new money, the government has failed its own workforce – the very people they praised for keeping the country running during the pandemic.
“If the government was serious about resolving the dispute, ministers could resolve it tomorrow. Instead, they’re shamefully hiding their heads in the sand, hoping we’ll go away. We won’t.”
Museum, culture and heritage bodies affected by the strike on 1 February
- British Museum
- Creative Scotland
- Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport
- Historic England
- Historic Environment Scotland
- National Galleries of Scotland
- National Lottery Heritage Fund
- National Museums Liverpool
- National Museums Scotland
- National Records of Scotland
- Royal Botanic Gardens Kew