Galleries staff in strike threat

PCS union members protest outside the Scottish National Gallery. Picture: contributed

PCS union members protest outside the Scottish National Gallery. Picture: contributed

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THREE of Scotland’s most prestigious art galleries are facing major disruption after it emerged dozens of staff are likely to strike amid a clutch of “immoral” pay cuts.

Around 75 employees are understood to be on the brink of industrial action after National Galleries of Scotland bosses announced the removal of the Weekend Working Allowance from pay packets in a move that will cost each worker around £3000 per year.

The allowance is often paid in the public sector as compensation for working irregular or antisocial hours.

Union leaders claim the disgruntled workforce – who are thought to collect salaries worth between £17,000 and £21,000 – are already classified as “low paid” by the Scottish Government and the £3000 wage cut was an attack on the lowest paid.

It is understood many of the affected employees are counter staff and gallery attendants at the Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

A statutory ballot to resist the pay cut is expected “soon”, with strike action likely to 
follow.

Joy Dunn, political officer for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), said National Galleries had insisted the salary cuts were being introduced because they could “no longer afford to pay” the Weekend Working Allowance.

“If the National Galleries want to be seen as prestigious in the art world they should at least be a decent employer because what they are doing is morally wrong.

“These are loyal and dedicated members of staff. They look after the galleries and are as passionate about them as anyone else, but taking away £3000 from their pay packets is a big ask and works out at around £60 per week.

“Our members are very angry about the proposals in front of them and see it as an attack on the lowest paid and PCS is going to fight this.”

Following the wage cut announcement in summer, the PCS union leafleted visitors to the Antiques Roadshow held at the National Gallery of Modern Art.

A source close to the talks said Galleries bosses had made a one-off cash offer to stave off industrial action but the deal was rejected.

“There was a consultative ballot where 97 per cent of members voted to reject the wage cut. If it goes to a statutory ballot there will be a strike.

“There is an offer to effectively buy them out – a one-off offer of £5000. If you have a 40 or 50-year-old employee who still has ten or 20 years’ work still to go, £5000 is not a great deal.”

A spokeswoman for the National Galleries of Scotland said: “Like all other public sector organisations, NGS is faced with significant challenges in the present economic climate.

“We are striving to protect jobs and maintain services and we have given staff assurances that there will be no compulsory redundancies as part of these negotiations.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com