STAFF AT London's Science Museum held a 'Mad Hatter's tea party' outside the museum last week as part of their continuing industrial action over pay. Members of the Prospect union served tea and jam tarts dressed as characters from Alice in Wonderland to reflect the feeling among the staff that the way they have been treated by management is madness.
Staff in three of Britain's national museums are taking action because of the delay in implementing the 2003 pay and grading deal. Over 220 Prospect members working as curators, conservators and other grades are angry after a decision to defer payment was imposed without consultation.
In one case the three-month delay will result in some members losing up to £2,500. Staff in the Science Museum, the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television, and the National Railway Museum voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking action short of a strike (92 percent of the vote). Since 16 February they have worked strictly to their agreed hours and banned unpaid overtime, which the museums depend on to keep functioning.
Management has argued that it was necessary to delay implementation of the deal because it faced a deficit of around £600,000 largely because of the government's failure to properly compensate the museum for the extra costs associated with introducing free entry.
Prospect's national secretary says, 'Our members understand the financial pressures facing the museums as they struggle to maintain ground-breaking exhibitions and retain free admission with insufficient funding. 'But this has left a sour taste in their mouths as it was the first year they had expected to have a reasonable pay rise, and measures to begin to address the pay and grading anomalies, after ten years of below par awards.'