National Museum of Scotland to close due to strike

Staff at the National Mueum of Scotland are to strike over pay. Picture: Contributed
Staff at the National Mueum of Scotland are to strike over pay. Picture: Contributed
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MUSEUM staff are set to stage a walk-out tomorrow in protest at changes in conditions which their union says will cost some of the poorest-paid workers around £2000 a year.

The strike action involving just over 100 staff is expected to close the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street tomorrow afternoon and all day Friday.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union have been in dispute with the museums management since 2013 over the withdrawal of the weekend working allowance. But talks broke down on Monday.

A PCS spokeswoman said the withdrawal of the weekend working allowance for new staff meant a two-tier workforce.

“If you worked in the National Museums of Scotland (NMS) before 2011 you get an additional payment for working weekends, but if you were employed after that you don’t get any additional payment. It’s worth up to £2000 a year to the lowest-paid staff.”

She said the NMS and the Scottish Government blamed each other for the situation but it was the staff who were losing out.

“The NMS says the Scottish Government has cut their grant and they can’t afford to pay these allowances. Fiona Hyslop, as Culture Secretary, says they are an arms-length body and they have a budget they need to work within. Meanwhile it is the workers who are suffering.

“It is particularly galling when the National Museum has topped the league as the most-visited attraction in Scotland with more than 1.6 million visitors.”

The striking staff will stage a rally outside the Scottish Parliament tomorrow at 2.30pm.

The museum management issued a statement saying it “may be closed” tomorrow afternoon and all day Friday, but would open as normal on Saturday.

It added: “These circumstances are entirely outside of our control and we apologise for the inconvenience caused to our visitors.”

The PCS said the resolve of its members on the issue was strong. The spokeswoman said: “Unless someone is prepared to intervene and come to a resolution of the dispute it is going to carry on and the public are going to be even more disrupted, which is what we want to avoid. It’s our members who have helped to make it the top visitor attraction.”

She said the strikers would leaflet the public explaining why they were being inconvenienced. “Support from the general public who visit museums has been exceptional.”

A museums spokeswoman said: “Like many other public sector organisations, NMS has had to make a wide range of changes in order to manage the reduced budgets which have been a result of the financial crisis.

“These changes have included reducing staff numbers, reducing a range of budgets, constraining some services and introducing a change to some terms and conditions for staff newly appointed to ensure that we could continue to operate within the funding available.”

She said all employees were paid the Living Wage and lowest-paid staff had received differential increases, but weekend payments were no longer common in the culture and tourism sector across the UK. No member of staff had had a pay cut under the new contracts.