#High5Heritage!

On November 25th, the day of the much-anticipated and feared Spending Review, Prospect reps received the surprising and welcome news that the Library will see no cash reduction in Grant in Aid to 2010-21.

Having anticipated 25-40% cuts, this was infinitely better than expected, though in real terms (once inflation is taken into account) it still amounts to a reduction of about 10% over the next five years, on top of the big cuts of the last 5 years.

The Branch would like to take this opportunity to thank all Prospect members, reps and staff, Library readers and supporters, and members of the public who, over the last few years, have taken part in the campaign against cuts to the Library and other heritage organisations by joining demonstrations, talking to friends and contacts, being active on social media, helping with leafleting campaigns, speaking at conferences and writing to their MPs. Everything has helped and your help has been really appreciated. The work done by Prospect has been recognised by BL management and highlighted at recent staff talks, where the High5heritage Twitter campaign received a particular name check.

Locally, the Branch will continue to engage with management to make sure that the outcome of the Spending Review brings benefits to members’ pay, terms and conditions.

There has never been a more important time to be a member of a Union, and there has never been a time when its benefits and influence have been more apparent.

Heritage in a Cold Climate Summit

Despite the weather, on 26 January 2015, fifty Prospect members gathered in York to discuss problems in the heritage sector, including four from the British Library branch (Janet Ashton, Chris Martyn, John Tiplady and myself).

Prospect Vice-President, Denise Maguire described the heritage sector as “A massive success story for the UK”. She introduced Prospect’s Heritage in a Cold Climate survey: 82% respondents said cuts had damaged their organisations, yet the top 5 UK tourist attractions are all in the heritage sector and by 2025 tourism will account for 10% UK GDP.

Councillor Janet Looker from York City Council told us how they were making its rich past work for the future well-being of its citizens, despite the challenging financial environment. Later, after the open discussion, Councillor Looker announced that she would be joining Prospect!

Mathematician, Dr. Mick Taylor showed how austerity was increasing inequality, decreasing social mobility and causing public sector funding problems. Austerity, he added, is not inevitable, but a policy choice. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) only measures financial capital, he said, not social, environmental, human or spiritual capital. To count the real value of heritage we need a new economics.

The Chair, Alan Leighton, noted that two of Prospect’s motions to last year’s TUC conference were on heritage funding.

Open Session

Craig said his employer, English Heritage, was splitting into a public sector advisory body and a charitable body to run the historic sites. They were experiencing a lot of redundancies. Mick Taylor said heritage branches could campaign by trading off the reputations of the institutions they work for, as many are highly regarded.

I talked about how British Library branch was raising public awareness with leafleting events outside St. Pancras and how cuts to the Library were mostly out of public view, but people proved sympathetic when we talked to them.

A York Archaeological Trust worker said bodies were competing for money across the public sector. Mick said the scarcity we experience was contrived. There was only competition between the public sector and the private. Heritage branches needed to campaign together.

National Executive Committee member Neil Hope-Collins said that Prospect needed to organise better geographically. Delegations could visit MP’s surgeries ahead of the general election. Tim from the Valuation Office agreed; MPs, he said, may just not be aware of our problems.

A telecoms worker from South Yorkshire compared the UK with Germany; Germany is very debt-averse yet spends heavily on the arts.

Denise said Prospect headquarters would use ideas from tonight in a heritage impact statement and that Prospect members should visit museums, galleries, etc. to boost visitor numbers!

A Royal Armouries worker said cuts were damaging their museum’s reputation and staff were leaving. Alan agreed, noting that the Tate Gallery Branch had used staff turnover to argue for the resolution of long-term pay anomalies.

Conclusion

The day was very useful for Prospect – and allies – to exchange  ideas and to start organising as a heritage sector. Prospect takes these issues seriously, and British Library Branch is constantly pressing the heritage case.

We accept that Prospect needs to address the impact of government policy on all its members. Nonetheless, heritage is a vital focus if the UK is to retain its international reputation as a centre for heritage excellence, and if heritage workers are to continue adding disproportionate value to the economy for the amount invested in us.

Heritage needs a pay rise

British Library Branch was well-P1050891represented at the TUC’s “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” march on Saturday October 18th. There were Committee members and ordinary members from both London and Boston Spa Sections present to march in the Prospect delegation from Embankment to Hyde Park Corner, where assorted General Secretaries gave speeches about social inequality and the need to reward workers fairly in all sectors of society (no, folks, unions are NOT just about the public sector!).

Despite the gloomy subject-matter, there was, as eP1050886ver, a carnival atmosphere, and some witty banners and placards on display.

What will it achieve? you might ask. Well, we all had a good time! More seriously, these marches have some effect in raising public awareness that the much-vaunted “economic recovery” is not being felt at grass roots level. And they inspire people who attend and leave them with a sense that they are not alone, and can continue the fight, reinvigorated.

So watch this sP1050890pace!

A big week for public sector staff

It’s an important week in public services. As political parties start to think ahead to the election, we public service staff are keen to let the world know what’s been happening in our workplaces, and to send a definite message to government and public that things cannot continue this way. The scale of the cuts inflicted on our organisations have left services at a tipping point and staff shell-shocked and demoralised.

Three public sector strikes have already taken place this week. Prospect members were not asked to participate in these, but the union is stepping up its ongoing campaign of using other means to publicise the problems.

Tomorrow – Friday October 17th Library members and reps will be leafletting on the Euston Road outside the Library’s St Pancras site, for the fourth time. This will last from 12 to 2pm, and all members are encouraged to donate their lunch breaks to come and take part

This will be followed by a strong Branch and national presence at the TUC rally on October 18th. Called “Britain needs a pay rise”, it focusses on the plight of innumerable people, in both public and private sectors, who have watched their standards of living erode even as salaries at the top of the corporate sector have increased exponentially.

Prospect has produced some strong arguments for why working people need a pay rise – and you can also view a video of Mike Clancy, General Secretary, too.

If you are not yet a member of Prospect, you can join here today! Don’t delay! Make your voice heard!