WORKERS at Scotland’s busiest museum have walked out in a dispute over pay.
Around 120 staff in the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) are taking part in a week of strike action at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
The union wants museum management to reverse its decision to remove weekend working allowances for staff. It said the withdrawal had created two rates of pay for weekend workers with employees who started before 2011 receiving the allowance while those who have started since do not.
A two-day strike over the issue earlier this year closed the National Museum of Scotland and the National War Museum in April.
The national museum was the most visited free attraction in the country last year with more than 1.6 million visitors and was also the most visited museum outside London.
Alan Brown, industrial officer for PCS Scotland said: “This has been an 18-month long dispute now and essentially it’s about fair pay.
“If someone was employed by the National Museum of Scotland in December 2010 and worked weekends then they earn between £2,000 and £3,000 more than a colleague working beside them if they joined in January 2011 so it’s wrong that this is the case and we’ve been taking action to get both the National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish Government to accept responsibility for this and do something about it and to end this two-tier workforce that exists.
“Industrial action that has been taken over the last 18 months has always meant that the museum has closed.
“It’s regrettable and it’s nothing something that we want to do but the simple message that we have for management and the Scottish Government is that its in their hands and I’ll be on the picket line if they want to talk to me.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This strike is deeply regrettable.
“All operational matters are for the Board of Trustees of National Museums Scotland and we continue to actively encourage the National Museums and trade unions to continue discussions facilitated by Acas to seek a resolution.
“NMS is compliant with Scottish Government pay policy including delivering at least the Scottish living wage for all its employees.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs has been actively engaged since pay issues were raised by the trade unions.
“She has encouraged both sides to engage in a more productive working relationship with a view to addressing and resolving these pay-related issues as soon as possible.”
The National Museum of Scotland is “partially open” today, a spokesman said.
He added: “It is regrettable that the PCS union has chosen to take strike action today, affecting planned visits by children and their parents and other local, UK and international visitors who come to our museums during the Edinburgh Festivals.
“The National Museum of Scotland and the National War Museum will be partially open today. The Scottish Galleries will be closed at the National Museum of Scotland but Free Fringe Music will continue this afternoon in the Grand Gallery.
“National Museums Scotland has had an ongoing dialogue with PCS and has made a number of proposals with a view to resolving this dispute - all of which have been rejected without being put to their members. However, we remain committed to the process of dialogue and have proposed that further discussions take place.
“PCS is demanding the introduction of payments for staff who work weekends. Weekend payments are no longer common in the culture and tourism sector across the UK, including Historic Scotland, Visit Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland.
“In 2011, in response to the financial crisis, we introduced revised contracts for new staff which do not include weekend working allowances.
“To introduce weekend payments for staff who have been employed since 2011 would cost an additional £400,000 per year. In the current public sector funding climate this is unaffordable.
“No member of staff has received a pay cut following the introduction of new contracts in January 2011. Existing terms and conditions have been preserved for all staff employed prior to this date.”