National Museum strike

Museum workers walkout at 15% pay cut


PCS members at all seven sites of National Museums Wales took strike action last Saturday in protest at management's plans to remove the premium payments for staff working at weekends.

All 'front of house' staff have to work some weekends and the removal of these unsocial hours payments could mean a 15% cut in the take home pay of the lowest paid employees.

Hannah Lawson, a PCS rep at Swansea's Waterfront Museum, spoke to Alec Thraves on the Swansea picket line before attending a PCS rally outside the National Museum in Cardiff.

"The 80% vote in favour of strike action and 90% in favour of action short of strike shows the anger amongst our members here in Swansea and across Wales. We can't afford to take a pay cut and we are determined to keep our weekend premium. Our members are already among the lowest paid not only within the Museum but also across the civil service and Welsh public sector as a whole. The unsociable hours pay for weekends is a contracted part of their pay, it has been for decades. Many people have mortgages based on this income, and others are telling reps that they don't know how they will pay their rent if these cuts go through.

"Due to their low pay most members are already reliant on Working Tax Credits which as we all know have recently been slashed in Osborne's 'welfare' budget, and this financial hit on top of that will push many over the edge of penury. As a Union, we have put forward eight counter-proposals to protect the very poorest, only one of which has been incorporated into their offer.

"The Museum's management and the Welsh Assembly have made a lot of promises about improving child poverty through culture, yet here they are penalising their own poorest workers and their families while highly paid directors take no cuts at all, and in some cases we believe bonuses as well.

"Add to that simultaneous attacks on members' pensions, redundancy rates and terms and conditions and you see a workforce that has reached breaking point. We really hope that the involvement of ACAS will bring something new to the negotiating table, but we will not be withdrawing our industrial action until we have received a new offer, having spent our last series of strikes being told that management were in no way thinking of removing these payments, yet here we are this Summer!"

A large, lunchtime rally confirmed that determination with PCS members in attendance from across all parts of Wales.

Speakers were applauded loudly when passing on their support and solidarity to the strikers, including Socialist Party Wales members Dave Warren and Katrine Williams.

Dave brought greeting from PCS members in DVLA who are fighting a similar battle with management and have a 90% mandate for strike action if negotiations fail. Katrine, representing the DWP in Wales called for further support for PCS against the government attacks from the rest of the trade union movement and urged the rally to attend the lobby of the TUC to demand action against the Tory anti-trade union bill and to start preparing coordinated action for a 24 hour general strike!

This first day of strike action will have brought home to the public not just the attacks on the wages of low paid museum staff but also the threat to the educational and cultural facilities that they provide.

(Photo: Kate Jones, Swansea Socialist Party)

This article was updated on August 04 2015

Alec Thraves

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