THE NATIONAL Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh closed on Boxing Day as more than 100 workers at the visitor attraction took part in strike action, as part of a increasingly bitter dispute over pay.
Management were forced to close the site in Chambers Street today, in a dispute over a controversial decision to remove weekend working allowances for staff that unions say is worth up to £3,000 a year each.
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Officials from the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union told The Scotsman that visitor services staff at the museum were now planning an “escalation” of action, with more stoppages planned for 2015.
The PCS said the museum has now been forced to close for the day about half a dozen times following a series of strikes during the last year over the withdrawal of the allowance.
Union officials said a weekend working allowance of between £2,000 and £3,000 had been withdrawn from all staff who started at the museum from 2011 - about 60 of the 120 visitor service workers at the Chambers Street site.
Joy Dunn, PCS Scotland parliamentary officer, said the 60 workers who are still paid the allowance had joined the strike in solidarity with those who do not receive it, most of who she said are paid a salary of about £14,000 a year.
She said: “Our members are talking about an escalation of industrial action, so there will be more next year.”
The dispute is between PCS and the National Museums Scotland - a non-departmental-body of the Scottish government.
However, Scottish Labour’s fair work spokesman, Neil Findlay called on culture secretary Fiona Hyslop to intervene in the dispute and to use her powers to restore the weekend working allowance to National Museum of Scotland staff.
Mr Findlay said: “This dispute has been going on far a year. Fiona Hyslop has done nothing to try and bring this to an end. Doesn’t she think it is acceptable for low paid staff to lose up to £3,000 per year in wages?”
A spokesman for National Museums Scotland spokesman said: “We have had to close the National Museum of Scotland due to strike action by the Public and Commercial Services Union. These circumstances are entirely outside of our control.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said:
“This one day strike, especially on a public holiday when many families and tourists may have wished to visit the museum, is deeply regrettable.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Culture has been actively engaged in this issue since it was raised by the trade unions.
“No existing staff member has lost out financially as a result of this operational decision by NMS to offer new contractual terms to new members of staff which fit with the industry norm.
“National Museums Scotland is compliant with Scottish Government pay policy including delivering the Scottish Living Wage for all its employees, and no compulsory redundancies.
“All operational matters, including for pay, are for the Board of Trustees of National Museums Scotland, and we have actively encouraged the National Museums and trade unions to continue discussions.”
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