Science museum staff on strike over pay

22 October 2019, 20:56 | Updated: 23 October 2019, 14:08

Staff at some of Britain's best-known museums are going on strike today over the group's failure to pay the real living wage.

Employees who work in the Science Museum Group say they have suffered a 10% real terms pay cut in the last eight years, because their salaries have not risen in line with inflation.

However, senior management salary growth has "vastly outstripped median salary growth" according to the employees' union Prospect.

The union says while most employees got a below inflation pay rise of 1.6%, the director of the group got 5.5%.

A petition on to support the striking staff explains that a pay deal offered by the group was rejected because it would not take effect in this financial year.

The Science Museum Group has cited financial constraints for the delay, but the union is unhappy because the group recorded a £4.4m surplus in last year's accounts.

They also say the director has received a yearly bonus of between £20,000 and £25,000.

Mary Cavanagh, exhibitions project leader, tweeted: "No one wants to strike, but we feel like we're out of options. If you can, please show your support for fair wages."

Anne Sharman, who works in museum collections, tweeted: "I will be striking on Wednesday for the #RealLivingWageNow and decent #SMGpay.

"I love my job + we love our museums, but we can't sit by while our colleagues struggle to survive on appallingly low wages, particularly in London. It's not right, and we're standing up and saying so.

"Also massive solidarity to Museum of London and Bradford Museums and Libraries staff who are also taking part in industrial action this week."

This strike follows a previous strike on 30 August, and comes after talks failed to give employees the long-term commitment to cost of living pay which they were hoping for.

Prospect negotiator Sharon Brown said: "Our members in SMG love their jobs but they cannot carry on with year after year of uncertainty and real terms pay cuts. It is clear from the accounts that SMG can afford to pay a reasonable wage. It's time for management to sort this out so our members can get on with the jobs they love.

"We are encouraged by the way negotiations with the Science Museum Group have progressed but we are still well short of a long-term commitment to paying the Real Living Wage. Paying the Real Living Wage next year is welcome but means that for several months, hundreds of workers will still be earning less than they need to survive.

"SMG has some of the highest profile museums in the country and it is ludicrous that they won't just start paying all their workers enough to live on, and commit to doing so in the future."

A spokesman for the Science Museum Group said: "All of our museums are open as usual with most of our activities available for our visitors to enjoy.

"Our pay offer included a 6.9% increase for the lowest paid employees as part of a settlement that saw all employees receive an increase of at least 1.5%. Overall the settlement represents a 2.7% increase in salary costs, which we believe was a reasonable offer, given the challenging overall financial picture.

"Following discussions with Prospect Union, we have committed to reach the Real Living Wage / London Living Wage from 1 April 2020, which will involve a further significant pay rise on top of last year's increase of 6.9% for colleagues on the lowest salaries."

As well as the Science Museum in London, the group includes the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester, the Science and Media Museum, Bradford, the Railway Museum, York, Blythe House, London, National Collections Centre, Wroughton and Locomotion, in Shildon.