Workers shut the museum to most of the public (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Striking workers at the British Museum in central London forced its partial closure while picketing last week. The strike, by members of the PCS union, is part of a fight over pay, pensions and jobs across the whole civil service.

Government workers at the Border Force, Liverpool jobcentres, greater Manchester benefits offices, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency were all set to strike this week.

They’re the latest to take action in a plan of rolling, targeted action, by different groups of civil service worker. One British Museum striker, Jon, told Socialist Worker, “The strike is going quite well. We shut the museum for one day the other week, and forced it to only partly open on Monday and Tuesday.

“Only members and exhibition ticket holders were allowed in.” Civil service workers are fighting after government bosses offered them a pay increase of just 2 percent—well below inflation.

It follows more than a decade of similar real-terms pay cut. “They’ve got money for other things but not for our wages,” said Jon. “Our wages are very, very low. I’m on a shift pattern for nights and the money is just about acceptable for that. But if you’re on days the money is terrible.”

Jon said strikers forced the museum to close entirely when they struck on 1 February, when some 100,000 civil service workers struck together.  “They didn’t have enough people to open the museum safely.”

He added that the strike had hit museum bosses hard. “Their takings through donations are going to be going down, and they rely heavily on those,” he said. “The private company that sells food in there will be making less money, so they can’t be too happy and will be putting pressure on the hierarchy.”

It’s another example of how willing PCS members are to strike—and their potential power. If they strike together they can shut the whole civil service at once.

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