The British Museum

The British Museum (photo via 4 Colour Progress’s Flickrstream)

Roughly 50 maintenance workers and cleaners at the British Museum staged a brief strike this past Monday, the AFP reports, protesting the museum’s plans to privatize maintenance work starting next April. The workers are represented by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and Unite, and both groups have expressed concern that their members’ pay and conditions will be affected by the plan to contract the work out to a single private company.

Jonathan Lovett, a representative for PCS, explained to Hyperallergic via email that the union is “skeptical” about the changes, which will most likely hurt the already low-paid workers. “And, of course,” he added, “new employees will most certainly not enjoy the same terms and conditions as under the previous employer.”

“What must be reiterated is PCS is against privatisation as, time and time again, it has been shown that employees’ terms and conditions are considerably worse in a private company than those within the civil service,” he wrote.

The museum hasn’t made any final decisions yet, but it does acknowledge that the outsourcing process is underway. A spokesperson offered this statement to Hyperallergic:

The British Museum is in the process of procuring a facilities management contract. Currently these services are provided by a mixture of in-house staff and two external contractors. The Museum feels that these services could be provided more simply by the appointment of one contractor. In-house staff would continue their employment with the contractor through the TUPE process.

The Museum is consulting with staff and Trades Unions regarding these proposals and will continue to do so. The Museum believes that this process is necessary to ensure that the best and most efficient service is provided for the public and staff alike.

This past Monday’s strike lasted from 7 to 10 am; another one is planned for Monday, November 5, and timed to coincide with a members’ event expected to draw some 3,000 visitors.

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...