Hard times for staff in the Science Museum Group
Museums Association
Museums Journal recently highlighted the 402 redundancies at national museums in the 2010-12 period. The figure for the Science Museum Group (SMG) was 49; it has now risen to 89.

Mark Taylor, the director of the Museums Association, lamented the loss of expertise as a result of the cuts and stated his belief that frontline services will suffer. Staff at the SMG share his concerns. We also fear that more staff than necessary are being made redundant.

From the start of the SMG “change programme” process, which was launched in early 2011 to find 10% savings in staff costs, staff and union members have urged an organisation-wide approach to allow the best use of voluntary redundancy and redeployment. The management chose instead to adopt a piecemeal approach.

We raised a collective grievance, together with the Public and Commercial Services Union, but this was rejected by the group and by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

We ran a members’ survey, which showed that among other things: most of the work of redundant staff has been retained within the organisation and shared among remaining staff; these staff are doing more work, often working above their grade as well as below their grade; and almost half are working more than their contracted hours without compensation.

Morale is seen to be worse, as is the performance of the organisation. Communication to staff is poor: 87% of respondents had received much less information about the change programme than they would have liked.

In March the SMG “welcomed its three millionth visitor of the [2012-13] year… the highest number of annual visitors to the museum since complete records began.”

This reflects great credit on the efforts of a diminished pool of staff. However, the reality is that these staff are working harder and are absorbing the work of departed colleagues.

They are also experiencing falling living standards due to an extended period of pay restraint and increased pension contributions for many.

Also, by giving the impression of being able to maintain and even improve its public offer with ever fewer resources, the SMG is in danger of inviting further cuts. Its ability to produce the same or more with less is finite, as is surely the goodwill of its staff.

Prospect Science Museum Group Branch Committee

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