The National Science and Media Museum is one of the sites that could be affected by the strike. Image © Science Museum Group

Science Museum Group staff vote to strike in pay dispute

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 11.07.2019
Industrial action could take place during busy summer season
A large number of staff could strike at six Science Museum Group (SMG) sites during the upcoming summer season in a dispute over pay.

SMG employees were balloted by the Prospect Union on industrial action after receiving a pay increase of 1.5% in the current financial year. Almost 80% of those who voted were in favour of a strike.

Prospect representatives are now planning to meet with SMG management in an effort to resolve the dispute. In a statement, the union said that if the issue is not resolved “action is expected to take place during the busy summer period”.

The walkout could involve "several hundred" staff from all areas of the organisation, a Prospect spokesman said, including curators, conservators and those working in collections and exhibitions, library and archive, visitor experience, research, estates and education. 

The SMG has put the number at around 180 staff, representing 15% of its total workforce. 

Prospect’s negotiations officer, Sharon Brown, said: “This is a very strong result in favour of industrial action and shows the strength of feeling within the SMG. Our members in SMG love what they do but they cannot carry on with year after year of real terms pay cuts.

“People will be astonished at how poorly [the SMG's] staff are paid, especially when they see that the director has seen his pay increase by a third in just four years. At the bottom of the pay scale workers are not even earning the Real Living Wage.

“SMG management need to sit down with us and come up with a fair offer so we can end this dispute and get on with delivering world class attractions.”

A spokeswoman from the SMG said: “We are disappointed by the outcome of Prospect Union’s ballot and will seek to minimise any disruption to the public’s enjoyment of our museums should the union decide to go ahead with industrial action. 

“Our pay offer included a 6.9% increase for the lowest paid employees as part of a settlement that saw all employees receive an increase of at least 1.5%. Overall the settlement represents a 2.7% increase in salary costs, which we believe was a reasonable offer, given the challenging overall financial picture.”

The SMG said 23% of the staff involved in the settlement had received a 6.9% pay increase. The organisation also highlighted other enhancements that have been made to employee benefits over the past year, including additional pension investment, interest-free loans and a career break scheme. 

The Prospect spokesman said that SMG pay rates “are some of the lowest across the sector and this is the biggest reason for high staff turnover”. According to the union, employees received an average pay increase of 1.6% annually between 2014-18. 

The timetable and make-up of industrial action will be decided in due course pending the outcome of talks between SMG management and the union. 

The six sites that would be affected by industrial action are the Science Museum and Blythe House in London; the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; the National Railway Museum in York; and the National Collections Centre in Wroughton, Wiltshire. 

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