Royal Museums Greenwich strike, 1 January 2018
Staff first walked out on New Year’s Day

Staff at the National Maritime Museum went on strike this lunchtime in a fresh row over pay and conditions – nearly three months after Royal Museums Greenwich offered to pay staff the London Living Wage from 2022.

Front-of-house staff who are members of the Prospect union walked off the job between 11am and 2pm, claiming that while they are getting an hourly pay rise, the hours they are actually paid for are being cut.

It is the third strike to hit Royal Museums Greenwich – which also runs the Old Royal Observatory, Queen’s House and Cutty Sark – since an initial walkout on New Year’s Day, in protest at a pay rate of just £7.50/hour, the then-legal national minimum wage, as well as new terms and conditions.

At the end of February, RMG announced staff would get an initial pay rise to £9 per hour from 1 April, with the museum aiming to pay London Living Wage – currently £10.20/hour – by 2022.

But one staffer told 853: “On closer inspection, it turns out that this figure is achieved by a combination of a pre–announcement of a museum wide annual pay award and an artificially inflated hourly pay rate.”

The staff member added: “RMG lowered the hours we were paid for and increased the hourly rate to compensate. This artificially raised the rate to a level above the [national minimum wage] rise so RMG avoided having to fund it.

“RMG have also imposed an 8.6% increase in working hours with only 3% compensation. The worst affected have lost out on £1,000 a year and are suffering physically from the effects of standing for an extra 40 minutes a day.”

‘We respect the professionalism of staff’

RMG director Kevin Fewster said in a statement issued to 853: “Discussions with the union continued to the point that the national officers recommended acceptance of the Museum’s final offer but unfortunately the members rejected it.

“We very much regret that they feel this is necessary as the new system is bedding in well but at the same time we acknowledge and respect the professionalism shown by all staff as they strive to maintain our service to visitors.”

February’s pay offer came after protests from rank-and-file Labour party members in Greenwich and an intervention from then-Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland, who wrote to Fewster about the issue.

Earlier this year, Prospect representative Tristram Spencer said that some members of museum staff could “only afford one proper meal a day” and felt “undervalued and looked down upon”.

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