Bradford Industrial Museum is one of the sites threatened with closure. Image: Neil Turner, licensed for non-commercial re-use, https://www.flickr.com/photos/neilt/6946656267

Severe cuts threaten future of Bradford museums

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 24.07.2019
Union to hold ballot on industrial action to protect service
Staff at Bradford’s museum and library service could take industrial action over swingeing cuts proposed by the council, the trade union Unite has warned.

The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council has cut the budget for its museums by £260,000 this year and is proposing further cuts of £500,000 in the next financial year. Overall, the council’s spending plans will result in a 65% cut to its museum and library service. 

Two of the council’s four museums, Bradford Industrial Museum and Bolling Hall Museum and Library, are at risk of closure under the plans, according to the union.

The cuts are also likely to result in redundancies of highly-skilled roles across Bradford’s museums and galleries, as well as substantial pay cuts and the erosion of employment conditions for remaining staff, who would be required to work across sites "at the whim of management".

Staff will be balloted over the next few weeks to see if they wish to take “full-scale industrial action” in defence of the service.

A spokesman for Unite, which represents around 50 staff at the service, slammed the council for an “unheard-of” lack of meaningful consultation with stakeholders, saying the union had not been included in any discussions on the issue.

The spokesman said staff had first learned of the proposals through newspaper reports. “There are a lot of upset and angry people,” he said. “We understand it’s a difficult position and these cuts are handed down from central government, but that doesn’t excuse the council’s behaviour.”

The spokesman said Bradford’s museums are at particular risk because they are not a statutory service. “Bradford Industrial Museum has all that weaving and textile history. To lose that would just be shocking,” he added. 

He said the union was realistic about the likelihood of job losses but said it hoped to reach an agreement with the council around voluntary redundancies. 

Unite’s regional officer, Mark Martin, said: “The cuts include redundancies, and erosion of the terms and conditions of members.

“For some staff, this means undertaking supervisory duties with no increase in pay. Also, the museum visitor assistants are losing out on enhanced pay for weekend working. The council should be ashamed for attacking the low-paid, mostly female, workers, in this fashion.

“Our members have been driven to despair by the council’s action and, as a result, they will be holding a consultative ballot to see if they wish to proceed to a full-scale industrial action ballot.

“We hope this shot across the bows will be a wake-up call for Bradford’s residents as to what is happening to a much-loved public service under their very eyes.”

A spokesman for the council said: "Due to the unprecedented government funding reductions, all council services are under pressure and that’s the case across the country. Bradford Council’s net budget in 2020 will be around half what it was in 2010 in real terms. But we will always consult fully and widely on any proposals to change services, including with members of the public, staff and trade unions.”

The ballot for industrial action opens on 29 July and closes on 12 August. 

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