Museum row to roll into summer

An ongoing dispute over pay between staff and National Museums Liverpool looks like continuing throughout the summer.

The first of 30 days of fresh strike action begins tomorrow.

Earlier this year, than 100 staff from National Museums Liverpool (NML) sites began a walkout over a dispute regarding a cost-of-living payment. Pickets have been a regular fixture outside the World Museum and Museum of Liverpool (pictured above) following a ballot of PCS Union members.

After no progress has been made to break the impasse, workers are to embark on further industrial action extending into the summer months.

The union launched a campaign last year to secure a one-off payment of £1,500 for staff within the civil service pay remit to support them financially amid the cost of living crisis. Museum bosses said staff were not eligible as they were not civil servants.

An offer of a one-off payment of £250, to be issued on a pro-rata basis, an additional two days leave, and a commitment to provide free tea and coffee in all staff rooms, was rejected earlier this month.

Cas Burgess, NML branch secretary, said, “It is disappointing that this derisory offer came so far into the dispute, after over eight months of negotiations. We still remain committed to resolving this dispute through meaningful conversation.

“Our members are struggling to pay their bills, many of them are increasingly in debt, and this payment would alleviate so much of the financial strain they are under due to low wages and wage stagnation across the culture sector. £1,500 might not be much to a museum boss on thousands every month but it would be transformative to our members.”

National Museums Liverpool was established formally in 1986 to manage the various locations throughout the city that collate priceless artefacts. These include the Museum of Liverpool, the Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, and Wirral’s Lady Lever Art Gallery.

The Walker Art Gallery, Sudley House and World Museum are also managed by NML.

In a statement ahead of the fresh wave of strikes, Laura Pye, NML director said it was “with a heavy heart” she confirmed some sites would close during weekends throughout the strikes as union members rejected an offer.

She said, “I would like to assure our visitors and colleagues that we will continue to meet with PCS to have meaningful conversations and have reached out to Acas, to support us to mediate a solution. Acas is an independent public body that provides free and impartial advice on employment rights, best practice and policies.

“However, as we have said before, without additional support from national government, there’s very little we can do in addition to what has already been offered. The truth of the matter is, we simply cannot afford the £1,500 one-off cost of living Civil Service Payment, which PCS members believe they are entitled to.”

The director added how NML had “never promised” the payment and told staff it would not be able to make it. Ms Pye said the musuem had delivered on promises around pay since 2019 including delivering either the market rate for roles or real living wage – whichever was highest.

She said, “Making this one-off payment would put increased pressure on a budget which is already in a difficult place, taking us below our minimum reserve level. We hope that the dispute can be resolved in the near future for both the enjoyment of our visitors and the people that give National Museums Liverpool its heart – our colleagues.”

The first weekend of strike action beginning tomorrow coincides with the opening of a new, ticketed, exhibition at the World Museum and members will hold picket lines outside the museum from 9am to 12:30pm each day.

Other strike dates are 11 and 12 May, 18 and 19 May, 25 May to 2 June, 8 and 9 June, 15 and 16 June, 22 and 23 June, 29 and 30 June, 6 and 7 July, 13 and 14 July, and 20 and 21 July.

Image credit: PCS Union

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