Cleaners and maintenance workers at the British Museum will stage a strike today, highlighting a number of grievances. The union members at London’s most popular museum are worried that their positions will be out-sourced to a third party company. The staff also voted to go on strike over fears about pay and conditions. PCS and Unite unions said, “They fear their pay and conditions will be cut”. The two unions, representing about 50 workers, believe senior managers will announce major changes to staffing from April.
Today’s strike will be between 7am and 10am, ending just an hour before the five-hour Shakespeare’s London: Bard, bears and boards event begins. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said the last thing workers needed was “the threat of privatisation hanging over their heads”.The museum said it was consulting with staff. Cleaning services could be provided more simply and efficiently by the appointment of one contractor, a museum spokesman added. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “With the cost of living soaring the last thing these low-paid workers need is a private company taking over and cutting their wages and working conditions to boost profits and line shareholders’ pockets”.
PCS regional secretary Keith Johnston said: “These staff work hard to keep this prestigious cultural attraction clean, tidy and safe for millions of visitors to enjoy, yet they receive little reward or recognition. “We are determined to oppose these plans that would mean shareholders profiting from cutting both the conditions of already poorly-paid cleaners and the quality of services to the public.” Unite regional officer Carolyn Simpson said: “We will not stand idly by while our members and this vital museum service is sold-off to an external provider.”The museum’s standing as a world-class heritage site is in danger of becoming second class.” “Introducing the profit motive is not only unnecessary, it risks undermining these important services to the public.” There are plans for more action next Monday during an evening museum members’ event.