The British Museum Unexpectedly Closed Its Doors Amid Countrywide Strikes Protesting Poor Pay and Labor Conditions
Employees at cultural organizations across the U.K. joined in on today’s “Walkout Wednesday” strikes.
In an unexpected move, the British Museum in London closed its doors today amid the “Walkout Wednesday” strikes being staged across the U.K. in protest of labor conditions, inflation spikes, and poor pay.
The surprise closure comes just days after more than 100 members of the institution’s security and visitor services staff—who belong to the Culture Group of Britain’s Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union—announced that they would strike for a week starting February 13.
“Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are on strike today as part of a nationwide dispute across the public sector,” the museum explained in a statement shared on its website and through social media. “While [the strike] is outside the control of the Museum, it does affect our ability to open safely to both our visitors and staff, so we have taken the decision to close the Museum today.”
“This is not a decision taken lightly and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” the statement concluded.
When asked for more information about the decision to shut down or whether any institutional employees or members of the security staff are participating in the strike, representatives from the British Museum declined to comment further. A spokesperson did confirm that the museum plans to reopen tomorrow, February 2, “as normal.”
One of the U.K.’s largest trade unions, PCS represents over 200,000 civil servants and other government workers. At least 100,000 were expected to participate in today’s organized strikes.
Among the PCS Culture Group’s members are employees at organizations such as Historic England, the Wallace Collection, National Museums Scotland, and the National Museum of Liverpool. National Museums Scotland closed some of its venues today, including the National War Museum and sections of the National Museum of Scotland. Historic England, the Wallace Collection, and the National Museum of Liverpool remained open.
PCS Culture Group members began picketing outside the British Museum at 8 a.m. this morning, while others organized near the offices of the U.K.’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.
“The past decade of austerity has eroded the pay of museum workers across the U.K.,” Gareth Spencer, president of the PCS Culture Group, told the Art Newspaper this week upon the announcement of the union’s strike plans. “Security guards and front-of-house workers at the British Museum have had enough of low or below inflation pay rises.”
“The government would rather use the museums sector for confected culture war talking points,” the PCS president went on. “We want a fair deal for all our members across the U.K.’s museums, galleries, libraries and for culture workers in the civil service.”
More Trending Stories:
A Keen-Eyed Shopper Paid $700 for a Chandelier in an Antique Store. It Turned Out to Be an Alberto Giacometti Worth Up to $3 Million
Ariel Pink Used an Artist’s Image on an Album Cover Without Her Consent. She Responded With a Series of Blistering NFTs
After Years of Legal Battles, Cruise Ship Art Seller Park West Is Trying to Turn the Tide. Will a New York Gallery Help Rehab Its Reputation?
Construction Workers Discovered a Mysterious Statue of Hercules Buried Deep in a Roman Sewer
The Future of Digital Art Platforms Is Integrated—and Artlogic Offers Galleries a Comprehensive Solution to Get There
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Office Furniture Was Ahead of Its Time. Here’s How the Architect’s Foundation Has Updated It for the Work-From-Home Era
Legendary Photography Critic Vince Aletti on His New Book, Peter Hujar, and the Last Days of Disco
Art Industry News: Oops! New York MTA Bungled the Spelling of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Name at Grand Central Station + Other Stories
In Pictures: A Henry Taylor Retrospective at MOCA Spotlights the Artist’s Individual Yet Universal Portraiture
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.