National Museums Liverpool venues will begin to close from this weekend for “an extended period” as potentially hundreds of employees begin to strike.

The organisation has announced that it will close several of its museums and galleries from 17th February and all will be closed from 19th February. Its venues include the International Slavery Museum, Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool, World Museum and Lady Lever Art Gallery.

While its venues will be broadly shut, from 22 February it plans to reopen the Museum of Liverpool and Sudley House café.

The closures could last as long as eight weeks, as employees who are members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) plan to strike until 14 April 2024.

The union said National Museums Liverpool has refused to pay a £1,500 cost-of-living payment to staff and claims more than 200 workers are set to strike.

Eight week strike announced by National Museums Liverpool union members

Director of National Museums Liverpool Laura Pye said it was “deeply regrettable” that a solution had not been found ahead of the strike, and the organisation intends to continue discussions with the union.

“A lot has been said, and continues to be said, about the reason the PCS union has chosen to take this action and, whilst we have communicated that we don’t agree with some of it, we want to be in open discussion with our striking colleagues to find a solution, so that we can welcome them back and reopen all our sites as soon as we can,” said Pye.

The director argued that the organisation has committed to work with its recognised unions over the last four years, has committed to a comprehensive Pay and Conditions Review, and had introduced a new structure of market rates for each role.

“During the last four years, we have increased our staff salaries by an average of 14% while we have also been impacted by some of the highest inflation we have seen in years, hugely increased energy bills, and our visitor figures are still 10% lower than pre-pandemic levels. In this same period, we’ve seen our grant from DCMS increase by 4%.”

Pye said “making a one-off payment of £1,500 on top of what we’ve implemented and committed, is simply unaffordable to us as an organisation, and would threaten the long-term sustainability of your museums and galleries.”

“We remain optimistic that things might change, and whilst we’re in this difficult dilemma, and our position leaving us with no straightforward way ahead, the Board and I are fully-committed to continuing to have open and honest dialogue to end strike action if possible, and as soon as possible.”

A picket line is expected outside the organisation’s World Museum beginning Saturday.

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Director Laura Pye says venues will close while it works to end the planned eight week strike “as soon as possible”