A wave of strikes has swept through Merseyside, leading to an eight-week closure of several key museums after over 200 employees initiated a walkout. The dispute centers around a one-time cost of living payment that workers claim was promised but remains unpaid. As a result, numerous venues under the umbrella of National Museums Liverpool (NML), including the Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, International Slavery Museum, Maritime Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Sudley House, and the Lady Lever Art Gallery, will remain closed to visitors from February 17.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, representing the striking workers, has voiced frustration over the unfulfilled payment of a £1,500 cost of living crisis sum. This action follows a period of strikes last year by more than 130,000 PCS members across various sectors, advocating for better pay. These efforts led to a minimum wage increase of 4.5%, coupled with the disputed cost of living payment.

NML stands out as the sole employer among 207, according to the PCS, that has failed to honor the agreed-upon crisis payment. “We have strived to settle this matter amicably but have been met with a categorical ‘No’ from the management,” stated PCS General Secretary Fran Heathcote. Heathcote emphasized that the dispute targets museum management rather than museum-goers, urging NML to acknowledge the dedication and contribution of its staff to Liverpool’s cultural and economic landscape.

NML, through its director Laura Pye, expressed regret over the strike’s progression, clarifying the institution’s financial decisions. Pye highlighted NML’s efforts over the past four years to enhance pay and working conditions, emphasizing that a one-off payment was never in the plans. Instead, the focus has been on consolidated wage increases, particularly for the lower-paid employees, stating that a lump sum of £1,500 is beyond the institution’s financial reach and could jeopardize its future stability.

Despite the standoff, Pye remains hopeful for a resolution, committing to ongoing dialogue with the unions to find a way to end the strike swiftly and effectively. The closure, affecting some of Liverpool’s most prominent cultural attractions, is scheduled to last until April 14, marking a significant period of disruption for both the employees involved and the visiting public.

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