Staff walkouts threaten disruption at museums

Industrial action this week is part of a three month campaign culminating in a national walkout at the end of June

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Museums, galleries and tourist attractions nationwide could be subject to part closures over the next few days as union workers strike in a row over pay, working conditions and pensions.

As the busy half-term week continues, hundreds of staff at the National Gallery and Tate galleries in London will walkout on Thursday, which could result in some part-closures, while Tate Liverpool has announced it will close for the day.

On Friday, staff at the Natural History, Science and Victoria and Albert museums in London, as well as workers at National Museums Liverpool, a group of seven free museums, will refuse to work along with staff from a range of government departments. On Sunday, union members at English Heritage sites, including Stonehenge, will strike.

This week’s industrial action, by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union which has some 250,000 members nationally, is part of a three month campaign culminating in a national walkout at the end of June.

"These strikes highlight the huge gap between the valuable work our members do and the contempt being shown to them by ministers who are imposing cuts and refusing to even talk to us,” PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said. “Both in our cultural attractions that are known and loved around the world, and across the civil service, the government urgently needs to invest to improve services to the public and to help our economy to grow."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “It is disappointing that yet again the PCS insist on pushing for futile action which benefits no one, and damages the services they deliver to the public.

"The Government took the tough decision to freeze public sector pay for two years, while protecting those earning under £21,000 by increasing their pay by at least £250 per year. Pay restraint has helped to protect jobs in the public sector and support high quality public services.”

Who is striking and when?

Thursday's strikes will include: National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery; Tate galleries in London and Liverpool; Department for Culture, Media and Sport headquarters; and Imperial War Museum.

Friday's will include: Natural History, Science, Victoria and Albert, and British museums in London; National Museums Liverpool (from 1pm to 1pm on Saturday); Department for Transport and its agencies, including the Driving Standards Agency and DVLA; Land Registry; Business, Innovation and Skills; Department for Energy and Climate Change; and research councils.

Strikers and supporters will form a human chain around the Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head, Liverpool L3 1DG, from 2.30pm on Friday to represent a defence of culture and the arts from government cuts.

Employees at English Heritage sites, including Stonehenge, will take action on Sunday.