Science Museum Group

Science Museum Group staff strike over living wage demands

Article: David Styles | Image: © Amy Harbour

Employees of Science Museum Group have today gone on strike in protest against the organisation failing to pay its staff a ‘living wage’.

In response to the action, Science Museum Group has told Advisor it has made a “reasonable offer” to staff in terms of a pay rise “given the challenging overall picture”.

It is claimed by the staff who have organised the industrial action that no Science Museum Group staff, apart from the organisation’s Director, have had pay rises in line with inflation for at least seven years.

Science Museum Group is made up of sites including Science Museum; Science and Industry Museum; Science and Media Museum; Railway Museum; Blythe House; National Collections Centre; and Locomotion.

Protesters gather in objection to Science Museum Group's pay structure © Dr Katy Barrett

Prospect, the union representing the striking workers, has attempted to broker a deal but the museum group is claimed to have cited financial constraints as the reason it is unable to acquiesce to the demands.

Striking staff claim, however, that publicly available Science Museum Group’s accounts for 2018-2019 show a surplus of around £4.4 million. This is said to include £1.3 million from a new tax credit which the organisation could allegedly spend as it chooses.

Regarding the pay dispute, a spokesperson for Science Museum Group told Advisor: “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.”

Further, we have been informed that despite industrial action all of the group’s museums “remain open as usual with most of our activities available for our visitors to enjoy”.

What has prompted the action?

On a change.org page set up with the goal of gathering a 2,500 signature petition to support their action, the reasons for the strike are listed as follows:

  • Our pay has decreased by 13% in real terms in the past four years alone
  • SMG employees are among the lowest paid in the museum sector
  • Unlike other national museums, SMG does not pay the Living Wage Foundation’s rate of £10.55 an hour in London and £9 an hour elsewhere
  • This year, SMG offered a pay increase of 1.5% to more than 75% of its staff – well below the rate of inflation again. The lowest paid staff have been offered more, but are still paid almost 4% below the Living Wage Foundation’s rates
  • The Director has received an average pay increase of 5% a year for the past five years and a yearly bonus of between £20,000 and £25,000

Many workers have already taken to social media to share their experiences of the strike. Interestingly, almost without fail these individuals have expressed their love for the museums in which they work; it appears to solely be the perceived unfairness in terms of pay that has motivated the action.

Oliver Betts' tweet seemed to sum up the mood of those protesting against Science Museum Group's pay policy © Oliver Betts