On 16 April Cat Taylor and Andy McDougall were presented, on behalf of the entire National Museums Scotland branch, with the Frank Maguire Award for Health and Safety at the STUC Congress.
The award was presented by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The Frank Maguire Award is given in recognition of the work done by the branch on designated staff seating.
Management had previously been made aware of the campaign. PCS industrial officer Cat Boyd advised management and the director at a meeting on 10 August 2017 that PCS would be working on the issue. Management were also aware of the petition as the results were announced to management on 6 March, along with a request to meet with our industrial officer, which was denied. We are therefore perplexed as to management's claim that they were not aware of our campaign.
The “written agreement”
The written agreement which management refer to in their notice to staff refers to an agreement decided in 2016 between management and PCS. The agreement was for an initial period of six months, to be followed by a review. The review which was promised did not happen to a standard with which the trade unions are satisfied. Therefore, the agreement no longer stands. The problems highlighted by PCS before the agreement had not been sufficiently addressed, so we informed management that the branch would continue to work on the issue.
Health and safety
We reject that the current seating arrangements do not have a detrimental impact on health – as borne out by body mapping exercises carried out by PCS health and safety representatives. These findings were rejected by management; consequently, PCS has called on management to work with PCS to provide body mapping to identify areas that staff health concerns arise from or are exacerbated by. This has not happened.
Furthermore, any risk assessment undertaken by management on seating in the past did not include health and safety reps or staff undertaking Visitor Experience tasks on the galleries.
The branch supports the current active role in which Visitor Experience staff move around the museum and engage with visitors. However, being ‘active’ isn’t incompatible with providing dedicated staff seating for short rest periods during the shift. The undertaking of good service and providing appropriate seating are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it can improve service and allow staff to manage their own needs, relieving pain, discomfort and fatigue. We disagree with management's claim that all staff have sufficient access to seating as the current provision involves using public seating only. Public seating should be for the public, not staff. In addition, the branch is concerned that recommendations regarding staff's additional needs/reasonable adjustments are not being fulfilled by management.
We believe that National Museums Scotland should be in line with other UK national museums and galleries that follow best practice by providing dedicated staff seating. We would draw attention, and give support, to those organisations that do so, for example: The British Museum, the National Galleries, and our sister organisation, National Galleries of Scotland.
We ask that management adopt a more progressive and enlightened response to dedicated staff seating, and act within both the letter and spirit of our partnership agreement in resolving the ongoing issue for the benefit of all.
It is only when the overwhelming majority of workers stand together that we win. Even if you’re not directly affected by the issue of seating, you will probably know someone who has been. Management told us in a letter denying us seats (again) that they don’t ‘manage by petition’, so we are looking at other ways to get our message across.
If you need to raise issues about health and safety and the impact of lack of designated seating please contact our health and safety rep Craig Harkness at firstname.lastname@example.org.