Staff workers at museums and cultural institutions across the United Kingdom are planning to strike in February over pay and labor conditions.
Security and visitor services staff at the British Museum in London and civil servants at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said they would refuse to continue working under current conditions. Workers at the Wallace Collection, Historic England, National Museums Scotland, and the National Museum of Liverpool are expected to join.
Civil servants working for the DCMS—the government department heading the cultural sector and policy in the U.K.—will begin striking on February 1. Up to 500,000 workers are expected to join the cause, as well as 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents workers in various government departments. As many as 123 government departments could be impacted.
Employees at the British Museum will join the picket lines on February 13.
Pay is the primary reason for the strikes. The government offered civil servants a two percent increase on their wages. The Consumer Prices Index, which measures inflation, however, sits at more than nine percent as of December 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics.
A branch of the PCS union, the PCS Culture Group, which includes employees of the British Museum and other cultural institutions, is organizing the strikes. As part of a PCS ballot, more than 86 percent of workers who took part voted for strike action in the U.K. civil service and related occupations.
“Only by taking part in well-supported effective action, do we stand a chance of ending the cycle of low pay and getting the type of pay rise we deserve,” the PCS Union said in a statement.
“This industrial action is part of a nationwide dispute across the public sector and focuses on matters that are common across the sector and outside the control of the museum,” said a British Museum spokesperson in a statement. “We have a carefully rehearsed operational plan in place to respond to any staff shortages on the day. That plan prioritises a safe and secure opening of the museum on a phased basis. We will endeavour to keep visitors informed of any disruption on our website with updates throughout the day.”