Update on National Museums Liverpool strike action

An update from Director of National Museums Liverpool Laura Pye in relation to ongoing strike action.

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Thursday 28 March 2024

More than five weeks ago, I shared an update with you about our venues closing for an extended period of time due to strike action. 

I wanted to personally update again on how the industrial action has continued to have an effect on National Museums Liverpool (NML), and what we have been doing to try to resolve the situation so that our museums and galleries can be open again.

As the Director of a much-loved and internationally important museums service, I also want to be honest and say that this is incredibly upsetting for myself and the many of the wider team here at NML, as we know how valuable our museums and galleries are to our local community and to the visitor economy of our city. Although we have been able to keep the Museum of Liverpool open, along with some other sites, it’s hard to see our other venues standing empty of people – something we didn’t want to ever happen again after the pandemic. People are at the heart of National Museums Liverpool, whether they are visitors or our incredibly hardworking colleagues across the organisation in all departments and roles, and we so desperately want to get our buildings open again to reunite with colleagues and visitors alike.

However, after PCS has rejected our latest and final offer, it’s with a heavy heart that I must confirm that our doors will stay shut for a while longer – at least until Sunday 14 April when this strike period is due to end. 

Since 17 February we have had several meetings and discussions with PCS around the £1,500 one-off cost of living Civil Service Payment, which they believe their members were promised. As we have addressed with PCS, NML has never promised this payment. In fact, we were very clear when it was announced by the government that unless an additional grant in aid payment was given to us to cover this, we would be unable to pay it. National Government has also been very clear that the payment was promised to civil servants and because NML colleagues are not civil servants they were not in scope. In addition, it has been reported that we are the only employer not to make the one-off £1,500 cost-of-living payment to our colleagues. This is incorrect. Of the 15 National Museums services, we are one of 10 that have not been able to pay the £1,500 on top of the pay awards agreed.

We would like to put on record what NML did promise and has delivered on in terms of pay and conditions since 2019/20 when we started working with PCS and Prospect unions on a new approach:

  • All colleagues doing the same job would earn the same amount for that job regardless of length of service - we have delivered this. 
  • All colleagues would earn the market rate for their role or real living wage (whichever was highest). We also promised to maintain a differential from real living wage colleagues and the next grade of 7.5% - we have delivered this. 
  • To equalise holiday allowances up to 28 days plus bank holidays - we have delivered this. 
  • To continue to pay into the civil service pension scheme for charity colleagues (the employer contribution has been at least 26%), and to work towards a better contribution for trading company colleagues – the latter is still ongoing. 

 

In delivering all the above, NML has seen average wages increase by 14% since 2019/20 at a cost of an additional £2.4M a year. The extra holiday allowance is costing NML an additional £120,000 a year and pension contributions are set to rise to 29% from the new financial year at an additional cost of around £100,000 a year. We firmly believe that this was the right thing for us as an organisation, to support our colleagues over a difficult financial period. 
 
In a bid to reopen our venues in time for visitors to enjoy them over the Easter period, our latest offer was made on Wednesday 20 March, conditional on a return to work on 27 March before Easter weekend, for all striking colleagues. This offer included a £750 one-off non-consolidated payment, an increase in annual leave to 30 days plus Bank Holidays (an additional ongoing cost of approximately £100,000 per year), a commitment to shut down the venues every Christmas Eve (as well as Christmas Day and Boxing Day as we already do) and a commitment to provide free tea, coffee and milk in all staff rooms. 

Making this one-off payment would have put increased pressure on a budget which is already in a difficult place, taking us below our minimum reserve level. We heard earlier this week that PCS members have voted to reject the offer. 

With this in mind, I would like to assure our visitors and colleagues that we will continue to meet with PCS to have meaningful conversations about a way forward, but as we have said before, without additional support from National Government, there’s very little we can do in addition to what has already been offered.
 
We have reached out to Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), to see if it can support us to mediate a solution with PCS. Acas is an independent public body that provides free and impartial advice on employment rights, best practice and policies, so we are hopeful that they will be able to support us in reaching a solution. In the meantime, I must apologise for the continued closure of the majority of our venues until the strike period is over. 

The following venues are open in the coming days:

Thursday 28 to Sunday 31 March

Museum of Liverpool (Pier Head) - open 10am – 5pm
Lady Lever Art Gallery - open 10am – 5pm
Sudley House café only - open 11am – 4pm

Monday 1 April

Museum of Liverpool café and shop only - open 10am – 5pm

Tuesday 2 – Sunday 7 April

Museum of Liverpool (Pier Head) - open 10am – 5pm
Lady Lever Art Gallery - open 10am – 5pm
Sudley House café only - open 11am – 4pm
All other venues remain closed.

For details of venues open beyond 7 April, please check our Visit Us page for the latest updates.