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Glasgow museum staff to take strike action

22 April 10 14:57 GMT
By Jamie McIvor
BBC Scotland's local government correspondent

Some of Scotland's biggest museums and art galleries could close next week in a dispute over pay.

The Unison and Bectu unions, which have members employed by Culture and Sport Glasgow, say they intend to take one day of strike action on 30 April.

It is over moves by the trust, which runs the Kelvingrove Museum and Burrell Collection, to freeze basic pay and cut overtime to try to save money.

A mass meeting of workers was due to take place on Thursday night.

The Bectu, Unite, GMB and Unison unions claim many staff will see their salaries fall considerably as a result of the proposals and have secured a mandate for strike action in a vote.

Culture and Sport Glasgow is accountable to the city council but operates independently from it. This gives it greater control over its financial affairs, including pay and conditions.

Its chief executive is Bridget McConnell, the wife of the former first minister Jack McConnell.

When the trust took over responsibility from the council three years ago, critics claimed it was akin to backdoor privatisation - supporters argued it would provide better value for money to council tax payers and that the quality of service to the public would not be reduced.

Free entry

Culture and Sport Glasgow has greater freedom to borrow money or seek private investment than the city council has. Some see it as a role model for other council services across Scotland.

But much of its money still comes from Glasgow City Council so it is not immune to the cuts facing local authorities across Scotland.

In February, councillors voted to cut the opening hours of some sporting facilities and smaller museums.

However, certain principles have been safeguarded. For instance, entrance to the city's galleries and museums remains free although some critics have long argued they could charge for admission such is their quality.

Pay freeze

The dispute is over proposals which would see basic pay frozen while other changes could lead to a drop in take-home pay - for instance a reduction in overtime rates and the extra money staff get for working on a bank holiday.

However, there is no proposal to actually cut basic salaries.

They argue the alternative to the pay freeze and the cuts in overtime could be to make staff redundant or make more of the cuts in services which the public would feel the effect of.

Managers at Culture and Sport Glasgow will pull out all the stops to try to make sure none of the city's prestigious venues is closed.

As a relatively low proportion of staff actually voted to go on strike, Culture and Sport Glasgow will watch with interest to see how many of their employees would actually be prepared to lose money.

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