Museum workers across Wales are in urgent need of solidarity after beginning an all-out strike today, Thursday.
Members of the PCS union at National Museum Wales have been fighting for more than two years to stop bosses taking away their weekend premium payments. Now they have walked out indefinitely to force an agreement out of management.
Neil Harrison is a PCS rep at the National Museum in Cardiff. He told Socialist Worker, “Most of the workers have had enough. Management have been intransigent about weekend working and we’ve exhausted all other possible options.
“People know it’s a big step. But throughout all the sites everyone agreed this was the only way we could go forward.”
Many of the workers are low paid and work almost every weekend. Losing weekend premiums would mean a pay cut of between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds.
One museum assistant who didn’t want to be named said, “The premiums are pretty much my food money for the month. I’ve got a mortgage, and I’ve got bills, and it’s not the best paid job to start with.
“We’re facing a massive cut in income – more than £200 a month for me.”
Museum bosses are trying to force strikers to give in. They are demanding that workers sign up to new contracts that include the pay cuts by 20 May or face dismissal and reengagement.
But the strikers are refusing to back down.
Bosses are already beginning to waver. Earlier this week they had claimed there was not enough money to keep paying premiums – and started individual “consultations” with workers to make them sign the contracts.
Now the strike has already brought them back to the negotiating table. And the Welsh Labour Party, which runs the Welsh Assembly that funds the museums, have finally been made to act.
Labour ministers had previously claimed that the pay cut had nothing to do with them, arguing that the museums are managed at “arms length”.
But today Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones told PCS reps the Welsh government would intervene to resolve the strike after the Assembly elections next week.
Strikers at a rally in Cardiff today were in a determined mood. But they’ll need all the help they can get from trade unionists and other supporters.
Donations to the strike fund will be crucial to help them keep going.
Peter Broome, an ex-miner who works in the Big Pit in South Wales said, “We’re 20 miners here, we’re used to fighting. We’re going to fight them all the way.
“I was on strike for a year – bring it on.”