Museum staff asked to donate wages to lower-paid workers

PCS members in defiant mood on the picket line last week. The union has been urged to return to the negotiating table at Acas
PCS members in defiant mood on the picket line last week. The union has been urged to return to the negotiating table at Acas
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Experienced museum staff have been asked to donate a portion of their salary to new lower-paid workers in an in-house effort to resolve a long-running dispute over weekend payments, MSPs have heard.

National Museums Scotland (NMS) staff have complained of a “two-tier workforce”, with long-serving staff earning an extra allowance for working weekends which has been withdrawn for those more recently appointed. The dispute has already seen strike action – including a walkout last week – and dispute resolution service Acas has been called in to mediate between NMS bosses and the PCS union.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said it would cost the government £394,000 a year – amounting to £1.2 million over the current government spending period – to provide weekend allowances to all staff.

Labour MSP Sarah Boyack told MSPs that “some of NMS’s members have been asked to donate some of their salary to other low-paid members”.

She said: “How can that be acceptable? If affordability is the issue, how can the Cabinet Secretary think it acceptable for the government to spend £150,000 on a commercially-viable profit-making enterprise like T in the Park rather than sorting out this long-term, debilitating, reputationally-damaging dispute?”

SNP MSP Jim Eadie said: “The mood of the workforce who I met on the picket line last week is steadfast in its opposition to a two-tier workforce which has been imposed by the management without appropriate consultation.”

He called on Ms Hyslop to encourage parties to come to a resolution “that provides fairness in the workplace and brings to an end a dispute that is damaging the reputation of NMS and has gone on for far too long”.

Ms Hyslop said: “In order to introduce a new weekend allowance for staff, it would cost £1.2m over the next spending review.

“I would point out over the last spending review, which took place at the time of changes back in 2010/11, there has been no request from any member of parliament to implement a change which would provide £1.2m required to do what the PCS is asking for.”

The Scottish Government has been accused of “cronyism” for handing £150,000 to T in the Park organisers to help them locate from Kinross to Strathallan following successful lobbying by former government special adviser Jennifer Dempsie.

Ms Hyslop said: “In order to address the issue [at NMS], we would have to find £394,000 a year to address an increase and provide an additional allowance.

“There are proposals on the table to address the issue of low pay in that sector.

“I hope every employer, whether it’s public sector, charity as is the case with NMS, or others, would be seeking to resolve that, but it is a real task.

“There is an offer that has been provided to PCS and I would encourage them to get round the table to discuss it with Acas and address it.”