Thursday, 12 December 2013

IWM Out sources Visitor Services Department

News that the Imperial War Museum Visitor Services department has been outsourced to Shield Security has already hit the newspapers.

I have to be careful what I write as I am still an employee of the Museum and can thus face disciplinary... Until 1st April.

The Museum like many other has been forced to face up to a hefty budget cut (caused by the financial deficit) from the Treasury and the Department of Culture and Sport as well as trying to save money for costly regeneration works for the World War One centenary in July next year. Museums as a whole have to face greater and greater competition for visitor figures and with the over priced nature of visiting London and more sunny days than wet, falling visitor numbers.

The IWM has had ticket only galleries in the past and in the five years I have been here they have had varying levels of success. Ian Fleming 007 and Horrible Histories: Terrible Trenches did very very well where as Once upon a War time based on certain fictional books set during wartime failed to impact - it was interesting to note that at the same time the Evening Standard wrote at length about the falling literacy levels within young readers...

Two Years ago the Museum began its review of the Visitor Services department and looking how to do things better. One of the problems highlighted at the time was that over the five branches the roles varied massively and that contracts differed depending on length of service. It was identified that the department was too cumbersome and there were offers of voluntary redundancies and early retirement which were accepted by a few. At the beginning of this year management had to look at the possibility of outsourcing the whole department except for a small Visitor Services department who would handle Visitor Planning and tours etc. The Tender process would begin and they would look at the feasibility. That was in April.

Since then rumours have been fierce and unrelenting. Yesterday it was announced to staff that they would, as of the 1st April 2014 be working for SHIELD. My meeting was today and we have been told that under the Tuppee law that our terms and Conditions, rotas, and structures would remain the same until at least April 1st 2015. After that nothing was certain.

The PCS have not been very helpful in this. Three years ago before I resigned my post our branch chair told us that there would never be agency staff working at the Museum or Volunteers doing VSA jobs... Both have since happened.

There have also been no real fight until the last week when the when Mark Sewotka's comments were published in the  Gaurdian and the PPS website. They also told the Museum that they did not agree with the process when it was pretty much over - a position that should have been taken eight months ago.

There are mixed fillings at the moment within the staff. There is a grim acceptance by some, others are trying to be optimistic that at least nothing changes for a year and we maintain pay etc, others are angry that their loyalty is not being repaid and that this may have been the plan all along.

Comments on Facebook and other Social media say things like:
"So angry, furious... annoyed"

"When you have a brilliant, warm-hearted, dedicated team, you do not outsource them. You treat them with respect and dignity"

"Dick move, IWM. That is all."

There is belief that this will not have any bad ramifications on the Centinary as staff who know and love the subject matter gently bleed away to be replaced by contractors with little interest in the subject. This remains to be seen.


  1. *feelings, not fillings

    Also, you could have mentioned how awesome and talented some of the agency staff were ;)

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