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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 16:48 GMT
Heritage staff in strike threat
Englsih Heritage sign
Professional and administrative staff are being balloted
Some of England's best-known tourist attractions could be hit by strike action.

Planning applications affecting some of the country's most precious buildings could also be disrupted if staff at English Heritage vote for a walk-out.

About 500 employees are being urged to support industrial action in protest at the imposition of a 3.5% pay rise.

Trade union Prospect said workers were frustrated the deal had been imposed, following a series of low pay settlements.

English Heritage sites
Stonehenge, Wiltshire
Osbourne House, Isle of Wight
Dover Castle, Kent
Kenwood House and Art Gallery, London
Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire
Battle Abbey, Sussex
Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire
Beeston Castle, Cheshire
Clifford Tower, York
Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland
"Previous modest pay settlements have been agreed by the unions on the basis that there would be 'jam tomorrow', at least in terms of a fairer pay system," said negotiating officer Steve Jary.

"But despite previous reviews and last year's commitments, no concrete progress has been made."

English Heritage professional staff such as architects, curators and engineers, belong to Prospect, while the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) looks after administrative and security staff. Both unions are balloting their members.

Mr Jary said Prospect expects to have the result of the ballot early next week, with the PCS result to follow shortly after.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a site employing union staff
A considerable number of English Heritage's major attractions would be closed as a result of any stoppages.

Some monuments, including parts of Hadrian's Wall, would remain open to the public.

English Heritage said a deal gave staff rises of between 3.2% and 4.3% and was all the organisation could afford in a "financially challenging" year.

A spokesman for English Heritage said: "The award is significantly above inflation and comparable with settlements in the wider public sector.

"We very much hope that staff will choose not to take industrial action of any kind."

Mr Jary said he was unaware of any past strikes by English Heritage.

"I don't think we've even come close before. This is a last resort."

See also:

25 Jul 01 | Arts
$40m art sale for charity
21 Dec 00 | Europe
Berlin art trove comes home
30 Oct 00 | UK
What is heritage?
28 May 99 | Entertainment
Tate and V&A share their art
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