Moving towards fair pay in the museums sector

Luke Jackson, Learning Support Officer at the Science Museum, explains why he is involved with Prospect and why he is taking action against low pay.

Prospect members strike at the Science Museum

Prospect members on strike at the Science Museum

It has been well documented in recent weeks that the museums sector is falling behind on pay. Prospect members in the Science Museum Group (SMG) and at the Museum of London have taken strike action due to low pay, while directors walk away with consistently high pay rises, six-figure salaries and eye-watering bonuses.

But who are the people taking action and why are they doing it? The vast majority are like Luke: they love their jobs and their passionate about the industry they work in.

“My professional background is in learning within the arts & culture sector,” says Luke. “I enjoy my job at the Science Museum because I get to work with brilliant and creative colleagues who feel strongly about making their career a contribution to furthering the arts and culture in our society, and ensuring more and more people get access to it.

Prospect rep Luke Jackson on strike at the Science Museum

Prospect rep Luke Jackson on strike at the Science Museum

“From our front-of-house teams to our creative teams to our administration teams, the workforce is saturated with individuals who are overqualified for their roles. Many of us have been willing to take a job at a lower level than we are capable of.

“We feel that across the sector, and at SMG in particular, management are exploiting this passion and dedication to string staff along on empty promises of future improvement, insulting pay offers and a perpetual inefficiency in fixing any estates or welfare facilities.”

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Millions of people visit SMG’s museums every year. They include the Science Museum in London, Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and National Railway Museum in York.

Without their brilliant but underpaid workers, the museums would not have the reputations they do and would, therefore, not attract millions of visitors each year.

“We are a world-renowned museum group, and yet our salaries and the day-to-day work conditions are abysmally incongruent with similar institutions and represent a huge threat to the survival of the work we do here,” says Luke.

“I love my job and my work environment but I too am not sure how long I will really look to stay here.”

Change is coming

Despite the situation looking bleak, there are signs of progress. Prospect’s membership in the museums sector is growing, which means more pressure on museum bosses.

“I initially joined Prospect to vote to take industrial action – I was later asked to consider being a representative, which I now am,” says Luke. “The union has been incredibly supportive in training and advising me in this capacity, and I am gaining many skills and valuable insights into the state of labour in our country.

“Prospect has enabled me to feel like I can really enact change and make a stand for all of us who work here.

“The strength of feeling among colleagues across our different departments and museums within the group has really encouraged me to continue these efforts throughout my career, as a staunch advocate and activist for worker’s rights.”

“We’ve made progress by securing a living wage for everyone working in SMG for next year only, however we will keep pushing for a commitment to the Real Living Wage and a fair increase for the 75% of staff who have as of yet been offered nothing.”

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