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National Museum staff strike over two-tier pay

PCS organiser calls on managers and government to step up and end dispute

NATIONAL Museum of Scotland staff walked out at the Edinburgh institution yesterday for seven days of continuous strike action. 

The latest action follows an 18-month dispute with management over the removal of weekend allowances for new staff.

Public-sector union PCS said that the removal of the allowances had reduced workers’ pay and created a two-tier earnings system, whereby workers joining after 2011 could earn £2-3,000 less than their co-workers who started earlier.

PCS Scotland industrial officer Alan Brown said the strike was essentially about fair pay. “It’s wrong that this is the case and we’ve been taking action to get both the National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish government to accept responsibility … and end this two-tier workforce,” he said.

The staff’s long battle for equality has meant the museum’s closure.

Mr Brown said it was “regrettable and it’s not something that we want to do. But the simple message that we have for management and the Scottish government is that it’s in their hands and I’ll be on the picket line if they want to talk to me.”

The National Museum is the most visited museum outside of London, with more than 1.6 million visitors annually, and is an important resource for students.

This week’s strike will see the museum closed during the Edinburgh Fringe, the Scottish capital’s busiest period.

Activists tweeting from the picket lines said that the turnout was “brilliant” and that the striking workers’ morale was strong.

A Scottish government spokeswoman claimed that responsibility for a resolution rested with the National Museums Scotland board of trustees, but said that ministers “actively encourage the National Museums and trade unions to continue discussions facilitated by Acas to seek a resolution.”

Scottish Labour democracy spokesperson Claire Baker said that there were “clear questions of fairness” that the Scottish government needed to answer.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay offered his solidarity to the strikers and called on Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop to “get a grip.”

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