London Museums Protest Against Pension Cuts

Museums take to the streets in today’s public sector worker’s protest

Museums in London, Liverpool, Newcastle, Preston and Inverclyde took limited strike action today, in support of the general public workers strike, which closed schools across the nation. Museum workers up and down the country went on strike over government plans to increase public sector pension contributions.

In London, a mass gathering of union members from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum and Natural History Museum (NHM) took place on Exhibition Road at 10.30 am. Other staff members from the British Museum (BM), Imperial War Museum, Museum of London, National Gallery, National Maritime Museum, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, and the National Portrait Gallery, were on hand. The BM issued a statement saying: “Some areas of the museum may be subject to closure.” A spokeswoman at the NHM said the museum was planning to open as usual but that contingency plans were in place to cover any staff that went on the strike.

According to trade union Prospect, museum workers at the National Railway Museum in York, the National Media Museum in Bradford, National Museums Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, and Royal Armouries in Leeds, will also be striking. National Museums Liverpool, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, and the McLean Museum and Art Gallery in Inverclyde, all announced that their museums and galleries would close. A statement from Prospect read: “Prospect members backed the strike action in a ballot by a three to one majority earlier this month. Turnout was 52.6%.

Ministers said that the normal pension age should be linked to the state pension age,in other words public sector staff would have to work longer, and the government plans are to raise the statutory retirement age to 68 from 2020. The coalition government’s decision to switch to the lower consumer prices index (CPI) from the more generous retail prices index (RPI) when calculating inflation adjustments has already reduced the value of some pensions by 15 percent. Unions say the reforms would mean people would work longer and pay more for worse pensions. The government, which wants workers to receive pensions based on average earnings rather than final salaries, made a revised offer earlier this month. It was not accepted by the unions. 

“The government’s revised offer, which would still cut the value of their pension by 39%, has been rejected as inadequate by the union’s civil service sector executive.”Professionals and specialists are among three million workers protesting against the imposition of a 3.2% average increase in pension contributions (5% for anyone earning over 30,000), the switch from retail price index to consumer price index for uprating pensions, and being forced to work an extra eight years to receive a pension.”

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