National Museum Workers ballot on offer
Improved compensation but not weekend premiums
National Museum of Wales (NMW) workers are balloting on whether or not to accept an improved offer from the employers after seven weeks of strike action that have closed some sites of the museum and partly closed others.
Two years ago museum management announced they intended to cut weekend premium payments for museum workers who are mainly in the PCS. With most museum workers expected to work weekends - some have only one Sunday off in three - this amounted to a big pay cut, especially for the lower paid workers. Karen, a cleaner at the National Museum in Cathays Park will lose £200 a month. Management, who were losing no money, offered them a buyout in compensation equivalent to two years loss of pay, but it would still amount to a big pay cut.
After a series of one day strikes by PCS members an all-out indefinite strike began on May Day weekend and the Welsh Labour government was forced to sit up and promise action. The strike has closed the Big Pit mining museum which is staffed by ex-miners. Peter Broom explained "we were on strike for a year in 1984, so this is easy for us". The miners would not have lost out as much some of the other workers, but knew that the lower paid workers need the premiums, and have been absolutely solid at the forefront of the strike.
The National Museum of Wales is funded and overseen by the Welsh government. PCS officers met Welsh Labour leader and First Minister, Carwyn Jones on the first day of the strike.
Earlier in the dispute Jones had fobbed the workers off but with indefinite strike action called and the Assembly elections a few days away, he promised that he would settle the dispute. New funds for the NMW were found and eventually, after a lot of feet-dragging, management have come forward with an improved offer.
The offer does not save the weekend premium payments but improves the compensation buyouts to amounts equivalent to five years instead of two which can be taken as a lump sum or spread over five years with pension contributions. There is also a reduction in weekend work and a 4% pay rise in 2017.
The offer is a huge improvement on the original proposal amounting to nearly £5000 per worker extra, but falls short of defending the weekend premium payments. New starters of course will not be getting weekend premium payments. Some workers are disappointed that the weekend premiums would not been retained but everyone realises that the gains that have been made are down to the resolute and courageous action by the strikers over many weeks of action. Branch officers are also determined to keep up the fight to return the weekend premiums "We see the deal not as the end of the war, but the end of the first battle" one of the officers said.
PCS is recommending acceptance of the offer and said "The deal represents one of the best secured in the trade union movement in recent years, and the success in Wales will have significant ramifications for other unions and their members, in the same way the National Museum of Scotland branch's success has helped Wales Museum members."
The strikers have inspired the labour movement in Wales and across the UK with their determined stand. They led the Cardiff May Day march organised by Cardiff Trades Union Council and organised a series of rallies for the strike which drew wide support. The appearances by strikers were the highlights of the PCS and Wales TUC conferences. Support and solidarity has poured in from as far afield as Portugal with the Lisbon Dockers sending messages of support. Museum workers also supported other workers joining the BFAWU picket line at RF Brookes.
Geraint Parfitt one of the leaders of the strike will be addressing the National Shop stewards Network conference in London on July 2nd. For tickets for the South Wales coach contact Alec Thraves on 07890 680685.
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