Carmarthenshire politicians Adam Price AM and Jonathan Edwards MP have backed museum workers as they continue to battle the Welsh Government over changes to their pay and conditions.
At the end of April the PCS union which represents National Museum Wales workers, including staff at the National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre, escalated its two-year dispute over the removal of extra payments for weekend working by announcing it would start an indefinite strike after its members were threatened with dismissal if they did not sign new contracts – often with up to 15% cut in their pay.
The union says the workers, which include gallery assistants, "are paid as little as £15,640 a year and work over 35 weekends a year. They depend on the weekend working allowances to survive and are being threatened with dismissal if they do not accept the latest offer from management."
By contrast, the union says "a 3-year dispute in National Museums of Scotland over the withdrawal of weekend payments has come to an end after management made an improved compensation offer, which was overwhelmingly accepted by PCS members."
Assembly Member Adam Price, who recently met with representatives of the union, said he was horrified to hear the way in which staff members had been treated. Warning against a "divide-and-rule" campaign, Mr Price has called on the new Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary to intervene and help resolve the dispute.
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said the situation had similarities with the junior doctor strike in England whereby the UK Government had bypassed the unions and threatened to enforce new contracts without agreement.
Adam Price AM said:
"Having met with union representatives and front line staff recently, I was genuinely horrified to learn about the way in which they have been treated by senior management.
"I have now seen correspondence from the management which notifies staff of just two options: accept the new contracts or see their current contract terminated.
"I am deeply concerned for museum staff that quite rightly feel very vulnerable given that the senior management is bypassing their union. The management needs to step back and avoid a divide-and-rule approach by getting around the negotiating table with the unions.
"The Welsh Government must step in immediately to ensure that happens in order to resolve this dispute."
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards added:
"It seems we are witnessing a department under the direct control of the Welsh Government bypassing trade unions and threatening to sack and re-employ workers on new contracts if they do not accept the changes.
"This type of approach has all of the hallmarks of the UK Government's megaphone diplomacy and iron fist rule in the recent junior doctor strike in England.
"The Labour party sought to make political capital out of what UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was doing to junior doctors, all the while it seems the Labour government was doing just the same to museum workers here in Wales.
"The first priority of the new Welsh Cabinet Secretary must be to resolve this dispute – the initial step must be to respect the workers and their right to union representation."