British Museum staff among cultural workers going on strike in February

Staff at museums and cultural institutions across the UK have announced forthcoming industrial action over pay and labour conditions.

british museum hieroglyphs

In what is likely the biggest move, security and visitor services employees at the British Museum will strike for a week starting on 13 February. This is the same week as half-term for many schools, and will hinder public access.

Staff at the Wallace Collection, Historic England, National Museums Scotland and the National Museum of Liverpool are also expected to strike.

Civil servants working for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are also expected to join picket lines from 8am on 1 February.

These specific strikes are being organised by PCS Culture Group, a branch of the PCS Union. The organisation encompasses staff at the British Museum, among other cultural institutions, and will lead a picket line outside the British Museum and 100 Parliament Street – near to the DCMS offices. 

“The past decade of austerity has eroded the pay of museum workers across the UK,” Gareth Spencer, president of the PCS Culture Group, told The Art Newspaper. “Security guards and front of house workers at the British Museum have had enough of low or below inflation pay rises.

“The government would rather use the museums sector for confected culture war talking points,” Spender says. “We want a fair deal for all our members across the UK’s museums, galleries, libraries and for culture workers in the civil service.”

“This industrial action is part of a nationwide dispute across the public sector and focuses on matters that are common across the sector and outside the control of the museum,” a British Museum spokesperson says in a statement. “We have a carefully rehearsed operational plan in place to respond to any staff shortages on the day. That plan prioritises a safe and secure opening of the museum on a phased basis. We will endeavour to keep visitors informed of any disruption on our website with updates throughout the day.”

pcs union british museum-strike

(Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

The government have offered civil servants a 2 per cent increase on their basic wage. According to the Office for National Statistics, the Consumer Prices Index most recently measured inflation at 9.2 per cent.

Late last year, the PCS held a ballot for strike action in the UK civil service and related areas. It closed on 7 November, with the final ballot showing 86.2 per cent in favour of industrial action.

“Only by taking part in well-supported effective action, do we stand a chance of ending the cycle of low pay and getting the type of pay rise we deserve,” a PCS Union statement says.

As well as DCMS, the civil service strikes are expected to disrupt the printing of driving licences and affect other print jobs at His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)”, according to the Guardian.


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