Museum and heritage workers to join public sector strike - Museums Association

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Museum and heritage workers to join public sector strike

Thousands of civil servants are due to walk out on budget day
Strikes
Museum workers on the picket line outside the British Museum on 1 February
Museum workers on the picket line outside the British Museum on 1 February PCS Culture Group

Museum and heritage sector workers will be among thousands of civil servants taking part in a mass walkout to coincide with the spring budget tomorrow.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union says around 133,000 of its members in 132 UK Government departments have voted for industrial action.

The civil service is locked in a dispute with the government over pay, pensions, redundancy terms and job security. “Our members have been offered just a 2% pay rise at a time when inflation is around 10%,” says PCS.

Members of the union Prospect have also voted in favour of industrial action tomorrow, taking the total number of workers who will be striking up to around 150,000. Prospect represents specialist, technical, professional, managerial and scientific staff in the civil service.

Action will be taking place across the UK, with rallies, marches and demonstrations planned. Picket lines will be in place outside several museums, including the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, London’s British Museum and the World Museum Liverpool.

“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,” Gareth Spencer, president of the PCS Culture Group, told Museums Journal recently.

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“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.”

Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, has accused the government of ignoring the union's offer of talks to avert strikes and failing to acknowledge its decision to take strike action.

“Our members in the public sector have seen their incomes decline by up to 26% over the past 13 years and their work taken for granted – they have had enough,” said Clancy.

“Poor pay and declining morale represent an existential threat to the civil service’s ability to function, and to our ability to regulate and deliver on the government’s priorities.

“Bills are rocketing and pay is falling ever further behind the private sector leaving our members with no option but to take industrial action.

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“We will continue our campaign until the government comes up with a meaningful offer. If it doesn’t do so soon, we may be left with no civil service to protect.”

The ongoing industrial action has already caused significant disruption across museums and heritage sites. A week-long walkout by British Museum staff during February half-term forced the museum to close for three days, and open with a much-reduced service on other days. According to a PCS spokesman, the museum was forced to issue thousands of pounds in refunds during the strike.

Other institutions, including National Museums Liverpool, National Museums Scotland, the National Library of Wales and the Wallace Collection had to operate with a skeleton service during the last civil service walkout on 1 February.

“The strikes were extremely well supported, with thousands of PCS members employed across the UK culture, heritage and sport sector taking action,” said the PCS spokesman.

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