MUSEUM staff working for Culture Coventry have been asked to accept new pay arrangements – or face having their contracts ripped up, the Observer can reveal.
It is claimed it could cost some of the 103 staff up to £3000 a year, with the scrapping of enhanced weekend pay and some flexi-time arrangements.
The part-council funded Culture Coventry trust – which manages the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, the Transport Museum, Lunt Fort, and the threatened Priory Visitor Centre – say the changes are needed in response to “financial challenges”, and would save £100,000 a year.
A leaked letter from chief executive Gary Hall to staff stated if they did not agree to the changes by this week, the organisation “have the right to terminate your existing contract and then offer you re-engagement on the new terms.”
It also states: “Culture Coventry is facing a number of financial challenges.
“This has led the senior leadership to engage in collective consultation with Unison and Unite, the recognised trade unions, to discuss a number of proposals to reduce costs, address the funding shortfall and mitigate the number of job losses.
“A lot of work has been done to make incredmental changes in order to imporve our financial strength but, this alone, is not sufficient to protect our future.
“We therefore need to make some additional changes to protect the Trust’s future and to enable us to deliver within operational budgets.
“I also recognise that we need to introduce a more integrated and flexible way of working across all venues to engender a culture of one organisation managing a number of sites to deliver an exceptional experience.”
The changes are expected to be introduced on June 1.
The trust also states it is introducing a Living Wage as a mimimum, currently £7.85 outside London, slightly higher than the statutory minimum wage.
Dave Nellist, of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, who raised the matter publicly last week at a memorial service attended by councillors next to the Herbert, said: “As the nature of the museums is to be open seven days a week plus special events, staff have relied on shift and unsocial hours money as part of their earnings. Many workers face a £3,000 a year loss.
“This is yet another example of people who have absolutely no responsibility for the recession and economic crisis being asked to pay for it.
“Most staff at Culture Coventry are so frightened of losing their jobs, and being unable to pay their mortgage, that they are keeping their heads down and taking it all.
“But I understand Coventry City Council has four elected members on the Board of Culture Coventry, and that they were briefed three months ago about these wage cuts.
“Yet it appears that many other councillors, including some from the controlling Labour group, were unaware of these cuts until I raised it last week.
“Councillors on the Board of Culture Coventry should call an emergency meeting and then have these disgraceful wage cuts rescinded.
“The city council, who until recently ran all these services, should not put them under arms length arrangements and then wash their hands of all responsibility for staff, many of whom have given years if not decades of service to this city.”
Mr Hall said: “If we don’t make these changes we would have to lose more jobs.
“Nobody wants to be in this position. We need to grow the organisation and get ourselves on an even keel.”
He said not all staff across venues would be affected by all the changes.
He added about 60 per cent of the organisation’s income came from funding via Coventry City Council, which was under pressure from government funding cuts.