Staff at Science Museum sites across England have begun a 24-hour strike in protest over low pay.
The action comes after the group’s directors refused to increase a below inflation 1.5% pay rise offered to more than 75% of staff this year.
On Friday, hundreds of workers picketed outside museums in London, Manchester, Bradford, York and Wiltshire. Laurel Mackie, 42, an explainer who helps to put on shows and demonstrations at the Science Museum in south Kensington, joined the protest with her son Albert, seven.
She said she earned less than the London living wage and found the cost of childcare a “struggle”.
“Travel is expensive too,” she said. “I have to think about what time of day I travel which can be a bit of a rush when you’re with a child.”
Mackie said she loved her job but wanted the Science Museum to pay staff a real living wage, similar to the nearby Natural History and Victoria and Albert museums in south-west London.
She said the museums were important. “In this age, where truth is crucial, it’s important to know what is fact and what isn’t. Critical thinking really is critical,” she said. “Bringing children and adolescents here can introduce them to that.”
Prospect, the union representing striking Science Museum Group (SMG) staff, said a series a of below-inflation pay rises had left workers with a 13% real-terms pay cut since 2010. They also pointed out that the average salary among those picketing in London today was £23,000 – a rise of 1.6% between 2014 and 2018 – while the SMG director, Ian Blatchford, a bonus of between £20,000 and £25,000 last year.
Carlos Alvares, 54, an explainer who has worked at the London museum for 20 years, suggested public institutions should be held to higher standards over fair pay. “We are here to entertain and educate as well as facilitate the understanding of science to the public,” he said.
Alvares added that he was “barely making enough to break even” and struggling to pay for travel from his home near Heathrow.
The strike meant that some activities were not running at the Science Museum in South Kensington, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, the National Railway Museum in York and the National Collections Centre in Wroughton.
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