British Museum PCS picket line British Museum PCS picket line. Photo: Alistair Cartwright

After years of savage cuts, workers in museums, libraries and other cultural institutions have voted to fight back, reports Alistair Cartwright

PCS members at museums, galleries, libraries and cinemas have delivered an overwhelming ballot for strike action in the fight for fair pay, job security and pensions. Strikers last Thursday shut down the British Museum, while British Library staff joined them in a vibrant rally.

After what amounts to a double-digit real-terms pay cut (less than 5% offered against over 10% inflation), and a decade of steady withdrawal of resources for the sector, staff are demanding a credible pay increase for the essential work they do keeping cultural institutions open to the public.

Recent analysis found that between 2009/10 and 2020/21, cultural funding per person was reduced by 33% in Scotland, 36% in Wales and 50% in England in real terms, with almost one in five libraries in Britain closing during roughly the same period. For those remaining in the sector it’s meant that thousands of staff have only just had their pay lifted in line with the minimum wage.

Samuel David, a PCS rep for security workers at the British Museum, said the strike turnout on the Easter weekend was a ‘great, great result for us’ and would give the managers ‘something to think about’.

Despite being turned away at the Museum’s gates, members of the public were remarkably supportive; some took selfies against the backdrop of the rally as speakers from the RMT highlighted the historic significance of the two institutions as places of radical learning.

All 130,000 or so PCS members with strike mandates, including at the British Museum and British Library, will be striking together on 28 April, and are all currently being re-balloted to renew their strike mandates.

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Alistair Cartwright

Alistair Cartwright is an activist with the Stop the War Coalition and a member of Counterfire.

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