THE National Museum of Scotland is set to close to the public for the next six weekends as staff go on strike in a long-running pay dispute.
The walk-out is a major escalation of industrial action by members of the Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union in protest at the withdrawal of weekend working allowances for the lowest-paid employees at the Chambers Street museum.
Our members at the museum are angry that this dispute has dragged on so longLYNN HENDERSON
Strikes will begin on the busy Easter weekend and continue each Saturday and Sunday in the run-up to the Scottish Parliament elections on May 5.
The row dates back more than three years to the decision by museum bosses to end the weekend working allowance for new staff, creating what the PCS has described as a two-tier workforce.
The union says employees who joined after 2011 earn on average £2000 or £3000 a year less than staff who get the weekend payments.
It said the latest action comes after talks with management failed to produce a new offer to settle the dispute. And it criticised SNP ministers for not intervening to reinstate the weekend premium for staff in the museum, while SNP MPs at Westminster voted to support weekend premium payments for Scottish shop workers.
PCS Scottish secretary Lynn Henderson said in spite of a willingness from the union to discuss a number of options to settle the dispute, neither management not ministers had come up with any proposal to end the two-tier workforce.
She said: “Our members at the museum are angry that this dispute has dragged on so long. These low-paid workers are withdrawing their labour in frustration at their management’s intransigence, and the two-faced hypocrisy of SNP leaders to support weekend premiums for shop workers whilst denying the same allowance to public sector workers employed by their own administration.”
A National Museums Scotland spokeswoman said paying the allowance to all staff who work weekends would cost more than £420,000 a year.
She said: “This is not affordable, following significant real-terms cuts to our government grant over the past five years and the challenge of a further cash cut which we face from April 1.
“These weekend payments are no longer common, either in the cultural and heritage sector, or in many other areas of employment such as retail and tourism.”
She said the management’s most recent offer would mean increases of between three and 13 per cent for the lowest paid staff. She added: “This offer was rejected by PCS in December, but remains on the table. It is regrettable that PCS has chosen to adversely affect Easter holiday visits planned by children and their parents and by many UK and international tourists. We’re planning to keep at least part of the museum open.”