Soul-searching over strike action.

Danielle Thom · 11 February 2020

Soul-searching over strike action

Nobody takes strike action lightly. It means a loss of pay, for one thing. It means putting yourself out there, publicly declaring yourself to be at odds with your employer. And sometimes, it means standing in the pouring rain in a hi-vis, with a raging sore throat, trying to keep your friends and colleagues perked up and motivated.

Strike action, however, is exactly what we did at the Museum of London last October. We had had yet another pay offer imposed on us in 2019 — just a 1.5% cost of living increase, well below the rate of inflation, and representing a real terms cut. As chair of the museum’s Prospect branch, I and the other branch reps realised that we had to push back, and take a stand; or risk this happening again in the future.

We have a thriving membership at the Museum of London, representing the majority of all staff. We knew that our members were engaged, committed, and keen to get their point across regarding years of cumulative low pay; and so we went to ballot. First by email, then — after a high turnout and clear result — to a formal industrial action ballot. This gave us a clear mandate to move forward with industrial action, and in the end we opted for a half-day strike during a busy half-term week, to maximise our impact.

There was a lot of soul searching around this decision. We love our jobs, and we’re committed to serving, inspiring and educating our visitors. To actively disrupt that wasn’t an easy choice to make, but it was the right choice. On the day of our strike, we walked out of the museum together, banners held high. Many colleagues had made the inspired decision to come dressed as historic Londoners, from Boudicca to a suffragette. We drew on London’s proud history of protest and dissent to make our point, complete with Cockney sing-along — and we had some wonderful engagement with the public as a result! It was, arguably, a very polite strike — but we were there to get people on side, not to intimidate them!

We’re still in dispute, officially, but I’m glad to say that the museum’s management are engaging with us constructively, and to their credit, they take our concerns seriously. This isn’t over yet, but the future looks a bit brighter, thanks to members coming together and using their voices as one.

Danielle Thom, Prospect Rep

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