British Museum and National Gallery staff to strike

British Museum and National Gallery staff to strike

Specialist heritage workers across the capital will go on strike this Friday (July 4) as members of the Prospect union at the National Gallery and the British Museum protest over the imposition of totally inadequate pay offers, almost a year after their due date.

Members at the National Gallery will join pickets outside the main entrance in Trafalgar Square from 8.30am while those at the British Museum will walk out of the Great Russell Street entrance to protest from 12.30pm.

Scientists, conservators, curators, museum and information assistants, librarians, information systems staff, photographers and designers at both London institutions are livid that the Treasury was almost 12 months late in agreeing their respective 2007 pay remits.

Members are also outraged that despite roundly rejecting the below inflation offers in ballots at both organisations, both offers have been imposed. Members at the British Museum are particularly aggrieved at the very low basic pay increase and members at the National Gallery, protesting imposed offers for both 2007 and 2008, are deeply unhappy about the slow rate of progress through pay bands.

Prospect National Secretary Alan Leighton said: ”It is pride in their roles within these world-class heritage bodies that motivates our members, certainly not financial reward. Yet frustration levels are so high that they feel strike action is the only way left for them to express the resentment over how they have been treated.”

“The irony,” said Leighton, “is that both employers are broadly sympathetic but have had their hands tied. The Treasury and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport refused to allow offers to be tabled until March 2008 and dictated how they should be presented, leaving no scope for negotiations.”

Prospect is seeking to reopen negotiations for 2007 (and 2008 at the National Gallery) and ensure that the 2008 talks at the British Museum are more productive and professionally conducted.

Friday’s action will be followed by action short of a strike in the shape of a work-to-rule in both organisations. Members of the PCS union at the British Museum will also be taking industrial action.

Prospect represents over 200 members at the British Museum and over 50 at the National Gallery. At the settlement date for both organisations (April 2007), inflation stood at 4.5%.

The British Museum pay offer increased base pay by 3.05%, but with many long-serving members only receiving basic increases worth 1.6%.

The National Gallery pay offer did little to reduce the time it takes staff to reach the top of their pay band, (currently 18 years), freezes band ceilings for 2007 and increases them by less than the rate of inflation for future years. As a result members will see a real terms loss in future earnings and smaller pensions.