Closure of National Museum Liverpool venues due to strike action

A message from Director of National Museums Liverpool Laura Pye in response to upcoming strike action.

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We are sorry that from Saturday 17 February we’ll be closing several of our museums and galleries, for an extended period due to strike action. I’m always grateful to those who choose to visit our venues and engage with our brilliant offer, and I know that many visitors use our venues as places to support their wellbeing. Schools look forward to bringing their pupils to visit as part of their learning and, already this week, our venues have been buzzing during the city region’s first of two half-term weeks, which is something we never take for granted. 

It is deeply regrettable that we’ve not been able to prevent this situation. A lot has been said, and continues to be said, about the reason the PCS union has chosen to take this action and, whilst we have communicated that we don’t agree with some of it, we want to be in open discussion with our striking colleagues to find a solution, so that we can welcome them back and reopen all our sites as soon as we can. 

National Museums Liverpool is a not-for-profit organisation which has been impacted in the same ways as many other arts organisations over the last four years. We’re not a private corporation producing a financial return for stakeholders, and while we do receive a substantial grant from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), as an arms-length body organisation, we’re not fully funded by them. We work hard to raise additional funds to support all our brilliant programmes of activity through targeted fundraising and, whilst we remain free to access, via much-valued support of visitors through our cafes, shops and paid-for experiences. All of which will be regrettably impacted significantly by this strike action. 

We greatly value our dedicated staff, and we understand the importance of fair remuneration for the hard work and loyalty they give to the organisation. This is why we committed to work with our recognised unions over the last four years, to improve our pay and conditions for all colleagues. Before the pandemic, we committed to a comprehensive Pay and Conditions Review, which considers how we can move to a fair and equal system of pay, holidays, flexible working and pensions – the things that colleagues had said were important to them through our annual engagement survey. In addition to the Real Living Wage, we also introduced a new structure of market rates for each role, which we agreed to over a period to fully realise.

During the last four years, we have increased our staff salaries by an average of 14% while we have also been impacted by some of the highest inflation we have seen in years, hugely increased energy bills, and our visitor figures are still 10% lower than pre-pandemic levels. In this same period, we’ve seen our grant from DCMS increase by 4%. 

Being able to work collaboratively with our unions to deliver a bespoke approach to improving pay and conditions for all our colleagues has meant, in the last four years, our average pay increase has been higher each year compared with the Civil Service average pay increase. Our pay freedom which is afforded to us as a DCMS arms-length organisation also allowed us to support our staff through the Covid-19 pandemic. When we furloughed staff, the government only paid 80% of their salary but we topped this up, so all staff received 100% of their salary. 

We’ve never planned a one off non-consolidated payment, and all the funding we had available was put into consolidated rises, prioritising our lowest paid colleagues. Ultimately, making a one-off payment of £1,500 on top of what we’ve implemented and committed, is simply unaffordable to us as an organisation, and would threaten the long-term sustainability of your museums and galleries.

We have tried through careful planning to keep available and open as much as of our offer to visitors during the planned strike period, and we’ll ensure we communicate this across relevant channels as soon as possible. I’m sincerely grateful to everyone who are helping to make this happen.

We remain optimistic that things might change, and whilst we’re in this difficult dilemma, and our position leaving us with no straightforward way ahead, the Board and I are fully-committed to continuing to have open and honest dialogue to end strike action if possible, and as soon as possible. 

While you may not be able to visit some of our venues in person right now, don’t forget we’ve got some brilliant content available online to discover including our incredible collections, podcasts and Museum Sessions.

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