With galleries and museums set to open from this week, PCS hase confirmed many staff working at these sites will only recieve SSP for self isolating. This is a potential public health crisis and makes our museums and galleries less safe for staff and visitors alike.
As museums, galleries and heritage centres reopen, they are keen to send a message to the public that it is safe to come back through their doors. But will they make sure their outsourced providers are not putting staff and visitors at risk by failing to pay workers in full if they need to self-isolate?
PCS was pleased to win an agreement with the Cabinet office that all outsourced companies with civil service contracts should pay full pay for Covid related absences. This has been followed by some institutions and companies within the culture sector, but not all.
Some companies, such as those working at the National Gallery and the Tate, are indicating that they will only pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £95.85 a week to staff who are required to self-isolate, and propose to impose this this even for those who would otherwise be entitled to occupational sick pay. It is central to the government strategy of lifting the lock down that anyone who has Covid 19 sypmtoms, has been in contact with someone with symptoms or has been contacted through tracing should self-isolate. But the majority of outsourced staff within the culture sector are on the lowest wages, and cannot afford to have any reduction in their earnings if they are to pay their housing and travel costs and support themselves and their families. Some may be forced to come to work even when they have symptoms or should self-isolate, putting other staff and visitors at risk. That is why PCS is asking all culture institutions to guarantee their outsourced providers pay full occupational sick pay or give special leave in these circumstances so that staff are not penalised for self isolating. We should not be asking any worker to choose between providing for their families and doing the right thing.
The staff affected include those who have been designated key workers and have continued to come into work throughout the height of the Coronavirus pandemic to guard and care for the art and heritage belonging to the nation. It is also the case that, across a disproportionately white culture sector, the outsourced contracts, who will only recieve SSP have many more BAME staff who are known to be at higher risk from the virus.
We urge insitutions to put their words into action over Black Lives Matter
PCS recognises that many institutions have made positive statements in the light of Black Lives Matter protests. We are asking that these statements are put into practice by treating outsourced and directly employed staff equally. The demographics in the culture sector show starkly that the vast majority of BAME workers, working in our insititutions, are currently outsourced on inferior terms and conditions.Guaranteeing full occupational sick pay for illness and self-isolation is a step, not only toward fairness, but can help ensure that all staff and visitors are not put at risk. This will help give confidence to visitors that it is safe to return to enjoy what our cultural institutions have to offer.