Unions believe strike against privatisation of maintenance and cleaning staff could force closure of the museum


One of the country’s most prestigious museums could face a strike by cleaners and maintenance staff over plans to privatise their work, according to PCS and Unite.

Low-paid workers who look after the British Museum fear their pay and conditions could be seriously cut if cleaning and other buildings work is contracted out as unions believe is planned, from April 2013

PCS and Unite members have voted by 90% and 100% respectively for a strike and are now said to be  discussing dates for action.

Any strike by cleaners and other buildings staff could force parts of the central London museum to close because of security issues.

The museum, which celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2003, is one of the most visited cultural attractions in the country, with 6m visitors a year.

PCS regional secretary Keith Johnston said: “With food and energy costs going through the roof, the last thing low-paid workers need is the threat of privatisation hanging over their heads, and this vote for a strike shows the strength of feeling at the museum.

“These staff work hard to keep this prestigious cultural attraction clean, tidy and safe for millions of visitors to enjoy, yet they receive little reward or recognition.

“We are determined to oppose these plans that would mean shareholders profiting from cutting both the conditions of already poorly-paid cleaners and the quality of services to the public.”

Unite regional officer Carolyn Simpson said: “It is unacceptable to Unite that our members are required to bear the cost of management failures at the British Museum.

“We believe this move to be driven by greed and totally unnecessary.

“We now have a situation where members, who have been working at the museum for over 30 years, are being sold off like cattle.

“Unite will not stand by and let this happen without a fight. Our members have reacted magnificently to past challenges and now feel betrayed by this announcement.

“We will take the fight to the museum and demonstrate the strength of feeling amongst our members.”

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