Unions secure 100% furlough agreements with museums and galleries

Unions have worked together to secure agreements with many museums and galleries across England Scotland and Wales to ensure furloughed staff will receive 100% of their salaries.

All museums and galleries have been closed to the public for over a month in response to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The FDA, PCS and Prospect were supportive of the decision to close but insisted that no detriment should be faced by staff.

In his letter to the Secretary of State PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka wrote: “Staff in these organisations are talented and dedicated public servants who bring joy to millions of people around the world and generate billions of pounds for the UK economy, PCS feels that the current disparity in treatment between the rest of the civil service, (where all staff and contracts are guaranteed at 100%) and the culture and heritage sector must be rectified as soon as possible, to give the financial security to the thousands of museums and galleries staff across the country.”

The unions secured 100% furlough deals with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, the Science Museum Group, the Imperial War Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museums of Liverpool and the Wallace Collection amongst others.

Similar arrangements have also been reached with the devolved areas of the sector, for example the National Museums Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland and the National Museum Wales where staff will have their salaries topped up to 100% and not face any financial detriment as a result of the closures.

FDA national officer Helen Kenny said: “Staff working in our museums and galleries shouldn’t face a financial penalty because of the convoluted mixed funding model. While other public sector employees continue to receive full pay, our members faced the prospect of paying the price for the government’s decision to not fully fund its cultural institutions.

“This is a huge win and will provide staff with financial security throughout this pandemic. Failure to approve access to the furlough scheme would have caused unneeded uncertainty for our members as well as placing huge pressure on our museums and galleries, who would have likely had to embark on a long and costly staff reduction exercise.”

In area’s which do not receive DCMS funding, such as the Southbank and English Heritage, while the unions have not been able to secure 100% for all staff, they have managed to achieve significant enhancements for those lowest paid and we continue to engage, creatively and constructively with them to ensure this position in the long term.

In many private sector areas’, where unions are recognised, across the sector they have also secured enhanced furlough arrangements for example DOC are paying 100% of pay to their furloughed staff, Axis have provided a solution which allows their staff to receive 90% of pay, and private sector contracts held by the Tate and British Museum have been asked to top up their furlough arrangements to 100% by the institutions themselves.

A statement from PCS reads: “This is a huge win for PCS members, securing thousands full pay despite the Treasury’s instructions, but it does not signal the end of the fight. Some private sector bodies have not reached reasonable arrangements with PCS and we continue to press hard in those areas to come to resolution.

“Finally, funding for the culture sector will almost certainly be at risk in the coming months as the economic impact of the virus is felt across the economy. The Culture and Heritage sector generates billions of pounds for the UK economy and, despite the savage government cuts over the last decade the UK still has one of the most important and vibrant culture and heritage sectors anywhere in the world. PCS are demanding that the government provide significant investment to ensure that the sector can thrive “post-covid” and that jobs and our members are fully protected. The more members PCS have, the louder our demands will be heard.”

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