The Science Museum in London will be one of the sites affected. Image (c) Science Museum Group

Science Museum Group staff plan week of industrial action

Catherine Kennedy, 16.08.2019
Strikes also loom at MoL and Bradford museum service
Prospect Union members in the Science Museum Group (SMG) are to strike this month in a dispute over pay.

The action comes after the SMG failed to put forward an improved offer on its below-inflation pay rise of 1.5% for most staff, which was introduced earlier this year. 

The 24-hour strike across the SMG’s six sites is planned for 30 August, preceded by action short of strike from 24-29 August, which will include work-to-rule and the withdrawal of goodwill.

Senior management salary growth has “vastly outstripped median salary growth”, Prospect said, with the average full-time employed salary growing by 1.6% per year between 2014 and 2018, in comparison to a 5.5% yearly growth in the director’s salary. The union added that at the lowest end of the scale the SMG does not pay the Real Living Wage.

Prospect’s negotiations officer, Sharon Brown, said: “Our members in SMG love their jobs but they cannot carry on with year after year of real terms pay cuts. The group has left us with no option but to strike.

“How can it be right that at museums on the same street workers doing the same job are paid the living wage, but SMG staff are not? It’s time for SMG management to sort this out so our members can get on with the jobs they love.”

A spokesman for the SMG said: “We firmly expect all our museums to open on the day of the strike and our priority will be to ensure our visitors have an enjoyable day.
 
“The overall pay settlement represents a 2.7% increase in salary costs which we believe was a reasonable offer, given the challenging overall financial picture.” 

The organisation added that all staff received a pay increase of at least 1.5%, with up to 6.9% offered for those on the lowest salaries.

Prospect Union is also balloting its members in the Museum of London after the museum imposed a similar below-inflation pay rise of 1.5%. The ballot opened on 12 August and will close on 2 September.

Brown said: “The museum will claim that with performance pay their offer achieves parity with inflation, but an employee shouldn’t have to perform significantly above job requirements just to keep up with the cost of living.”  

A Museum of London spokesperson said the museum is “committed to ensuring [its] staff receive fair remuneration despite the challenging financial situation for the museum sector”. 

The organisation said that on average, salaries have increased by 2.6% this year, with staff on lowest pay grades receiving a 3.4% increase, and highlighted other employee benefits, including staff membership of the defined benefit Local Government Pension Scheme.

Bradford

Meanwhile, 78% of Unite the Union members at Bradford’s libraries and museums service have also voted in favour of industrial action in a consultative ballot, as their campaign to save the service from proposed budget cuts continues.

Unite regional officer, Mark Martin, said: “We don’t want it to get to [the point of a full-scale industrial action ballot] and we want to hold meaningful talks with the council as we seek to come to an agreement which our members will support.”

However, Martin added that media reports indicate the council is moving ahead with plans.

A spokesperson for Bradford Council said: “We published a budget last year as we do every year and consulted on it in the proper way. Every department across the Council has had to face reductions in funding as a result of national government austerity. Any future budget will of course be fully consulted upon with staff and residents.

“Unite have been invited to take part in discussions at every stage of the staff consultation and we have responded in full to their concerns. However, in the latter stages, Unite have chosen not to attend meetings or engage in an open dialogue with council management.

“We hope that Unite will accept an invitation to sit down with us and enter into a dialogue. The offer to do so remains open to them, as it has been during this whole process.”

Unite said it would only attend meetings where “meaningful consultation takes place”.

Unite’s corporate representative, Patrick Kerry, said: “At every avenue, management have averted their responsibility to have meaningful consultation with Unite. We offered to pause our industrial action process pending talks, but the council refused to reciprocate.

“Our members will not be bullied to the table by threats. They are fighting not only for their own futures, but for the right of communities throughout Bradford to a decent quality service and quality jobs.”

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