Strikers outside National Museum Wales in Cardiff last year

Further strikes hit UK museums

Rebecca Atkinson, 26.08.2015
Venues in England, Wales and Scotland affected by industrial action
Museums in England, Wales and Scotland continue to be affected by industrial action this week, with the National Gallery in London, National Museums of Scotland (NMS) and Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum Wales) all partially closed as a result.

Staff at the NMS will began seven days of strikes on Monday after arbitration negotiations between the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and the museum service failed to reach a resolution last week. The walk-out is part of a long-running campaign by the union to get weekend allowances for visitor operation staff reintroduced.

These were scrapped for new staff in January 2011. The PCS said those employed after this date receive up to £3,000 less a year for working weekend shifts.

Some of the five venues run by NMS will be partially closed as a result of the strikes, with decisions over openings taken on a day-by-day basis

A spokesman for NMS said reintroducing weekend payments was “unaffordable” in the current climate of public sector funding cuts.

He added: “NMS has had an ongoing dialogue with PCS and has made a number of proposals with a view to resolving this dispute – all of which have been rejected without being put to PCS members. However, we remain committed to the process of dialogue and have proposed that further discussions take place.”

In Wales, the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenafon, the National Slate Museum in Llanberis and the National Wool Museum in Dre-fach Felindre will be closed on Saturday 29 August. Big Pit will also be closed on Sunday 30 and Monday 31 August.

The closures are part of a long-running industrial dispute between PCS and National Museum Wales over proposals to scrap premium payments for weekend working – a move that the union said would slash pay for front-of-house staff by £2,000 to £3,000 a year.

“Management has threatened to dismiss staff who refused to sign up to the changes, then re-engage them on the inferior terms,” the union said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for National Museum Wales said it had presented PCS with a new offer, which includes an additional £300 per person affected on top of the compensatory payments already offered, which are worth about £3,600. Their basic pay will also increase by 6% rather than 4%, and all staff will receive at least the Living Wage of £7.85 an hour.

“It is the best we can offer within the financial resources available to us, which have been cut by over 20% in recent years,” the spokeswoman said.

Staff at the National Gallery in London went on continuous strike action on 17 August. PCS members, who have walked out more than 50 times in the past year, are protesting against the privatisation of the gallery’s visitor-facing services, including ticket sales, security and front-of-house.

And Tate in London is also facing a campaign by PCS members who are employed by the private firm Wilson James.

The union claims privitised staff are employed on zero-hours contacts and are paid £2.50 less per hour than colleagues doing the same jobs by employed directly by Tate.

“PCS members employed by Wilson James receive no contractual maternity pay or proper access to pensions,” the union said in a statement. “Instead of a decent pay rise, a meagre increase of 13p was seen as an insult by PCS members, who boycotted a Late at Tate event as a result.”

A petition calling on Tate and Wilson James to end the pay disparity had attracted 1,487 signatures at the time of writing.

A spokesman for Wilson James: "Employee welfare is important to Wilson James and our clients and we always consult with our employees regarding any concerns that are raised.
 
"Our staff working at Tate are paid a rate which is equivalent to the London Living Wage."

Tate has not responded Museums Journal’s requests for comment.

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