School holiday strike hits museum visitors

VISITOR attractions, sheriff courts and driving test centres were closed when thousands of public-sector workers took part in a half-day strike.

Among the venues that shut their doors at lunchtime was the National Museum of Scotland, the country’s busiest tourist attraction, prompting an angry reaction from tourists.

Paula Scott, visiting Edinburgh from Maidenhead, said she was “livid” at being told to leave with her two children and others who were making an Easter holiday trip to the ­museum.

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The 46-year-old said: “I’m absolutely fuming. It’s crazy to do this on holiday time. The staff just told everybody to get out.

“I understand they [the staff] have done it to get publicity, but, really, this is PR gone wrong. It made a lot of people unhappy. It’s a national museum on school holidays – you don’t check to see if it’s open.”

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said they took industrial action to defend their pay, pensions and work conditions against UK government cuts.

There are about 30,000 public and civil servants in Scotland in the PCS union. There was some support on social media sites for striking staff, with posters arguing that the union members were defending the public against government austerity measures.

In a statement on their website, the National Museums of Scotland apologised for the ­inconvenience and said their venues would reopen today.

Scottish secretary Lynn Henderson said: “We said our Budget day strike was not a one-day protest and this long weekend of walkouts is the next step in a series of strikes to put pressure on a government that is refusing to talk to us.

“Civil and public servants are working harder than ever to provide the services we all rely on. But instead of rewarding them, the government is imposing cuts to their pay, raiding their pensions and trying to

rip up their basic working ­conditions.”

PCS national president Janice Godrich addressed union members outside the building in Glasgow where both the Department of Work and Pensions and Identity and Passport Service have offices. About 800 members walked out at 1pm.

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The strike is part of the union’s three-month campaign to stop cuts to pay and pensions and to defend their work conditions. On Monday, PCS members at HM Revenue and Customs will stage a half-day strike, timed to disrupt HMRC’s work just after the start of the new tax year. It is particularly meant to affect the introduction of “real time information”, where PAYE employers have to notify HMRC officials every time they pay staff and make deductions.

PCS is holding meetings next week to discuss the next stage of the campaign.

Cabinet Office minister ­Francis Maude said: “[The strike] benefits no-one, but threatens the services people rely on, at a time when we should all be working together to support growth and build the economy.”