The British Museum has rejected claims from civil service union PCS that it has refused to pay staff a non-consolidated £1,500 payment to help with cost-of-living pressures.
Yesterday, PCS announced strikes at the museum – which is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – after it said bosses had refused to offer employees the lump sum government has promised to all non-senior civil servants.
The cost-of-living payment can be implemented by all employers covered by the government’s pay remit guidance for civil servants – as long as they were in post on 31 March 2023 and will still be on the date of payment. PCS has said it will continue industrial action until every employer has agreed to pay the bonus.
But the museum said it is not subject to the government’s pay remit guidance and sets pay awards itself. It said it has also invited unions for discussions on this year’s pay settlement, including on a potential equivalent lump sum payment.
“The British Museum has not refused to pay a non-consolidated £1,500 lump sum to staff,” a spokesperson said.
“As a freedom body, the museum is not subject to the government’s pay remit guidance and sets its own pay awards.
“We are saddened that PCS are taking this action, as we have an open invite to the three unions we work with, including PCS, to sit down and discuss this year’s pay settlement – including the possibility of a lump sum payment – and are prepared to talk at any time.”
PCS has, however, insisted that the museum said it would not make the £1,500 cost-of-living payment and the union said other "freedom bodies" had committed to do so.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Despite what it claims, the British Museum has informed PCS that it will not be paying the £1,500 cost-of-living payment to our members.
"Following our national dispute, civil service and related bodies have joined Freedom Bodies like the museum in agreeing to the payment, which recognises that members desperately need financial help to cover their basic needs."
Serwotka added: “As well as refusing to agree to this payment, the museum continues to pay many of its dedicated front-of-house staff wages that are well below the London Living Wage. Hardworking members like this cannot afford to wait for the lengthy and uncertain pay negotiations to conclude.
"Members have told us directly that they are struggling to pay their bills, that they cannot afford medication for chronic health conditions, that they have used or will use food banks, that they are racking up credit card debts.
“As always, we are happy to meet with and speak to the museum. But until the £1,500 or an offer in excess of this is made, we will not be suspending our action in July.”
British Museum PCS members are set to walk out on 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 July over the pay dispute.