The museum crisis has not been resolved. Some rooms of the 16 state institutions remain closed due to the lack of General Services N6 assistants, known as room guards. The labor agreement approved in 2019 has downgraded these employees and has structured the different customer service jobs according to different categories and qualifications. This has meant, for example, that a room attendant cannot replace a box office worker if he gets sick, so there have been museums that have closed this summer because they could not sell tickets.
Government and security guards reach an agreement in principle to unblock the crisis in state museums
To try to alleviate this crisis, the Ministry of Culture has announced this Monday extraordinary contracts in order to open the rooms of Greece and Egypt of the National Archaeological Museum. There are 18 customer service positions (room security guards and a box office attendant) that will be activated this Tuesday. This is a temporary incorporation until the selective procedures of the 2020 Public Employment Offer are convened and resolved, which provide for 80 places, 76 of them destined for customer service positions.
The problems come from behind. In May 2019, the IV Single Agreement for the staff of the General State Administration was approved. One of the objectives of the new agreement agreed by the Government and unions was to create professional groups based on the activity to be carried out. To do this, they had to specify the category and degree required to access the job of security guard in the room. As there is no specific FP for the position, the security guards suffered a reduction in category to E1, even though they had made the oppositions with an identical syllabus to that required for E2. Since then, the state museums managed by the Ministry of Culture suffer from a lack of staff to cover shifts.
Casualties and retirements have left open vacancies that cannot be easily filled because the training of the security guards no longer matches what is now required. As a result of insufficient staff, museums have been temporarily closing their rooms for about a year and a half, justifying on their website that it is due to “internal organization reasons.” Some of the most affected museums are the Sorolla Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Romanticism Museum and the Cerralbo Museum, among others. The Museum of America and the National Museum of Sculpture were also forced to close spaces, but are currently fully open, except in exceptional cases.
The Archaeological Museum has been the most affected by these imbalances. It has rooms that cannot be visited since the pandemic. In 2020 the permanent exhibitions of Reinos Cristianos, Moderna, Numismática and the Altamira Replica closed: they have not reopened. The rest undergo constant openings and closings, as is the case of the Near East or History of the Museum. The rooms in Egypt and Greece were open until just a week ago. In this way, today the entire Floor 2 is out of access, although it is expected that with the emergency measure of the Ministry of Culture, they will be reopened. Museum sources explain that since 2020 “it has not been fully reopened”: “If a person is discharged, they are not replaced, therefore there is a lack of personnel that cannot be solved until the next call comes out”. The sources with whom this medium has contacted also want to remember that “it is not something specific” and that they are struggling to solve the situation, but that “nothing can be done but wait” for the Ministry’s solution.
The other affected institutions muddle through with weekly reorganizations. Currently, the Sorolla Museum closes Room 2 in the mornings and opens fully in the afternoons. The Museum of Romanticism alternates the closing and opening of some rooms almost daily, “depending on whether there is enough staff or not,” says an anonymous worker. In the Cerralbo Museum you can’t visit either the Summer or the Winter part, but you can visit the oldest part of the museum.
waiting for call
The shortage of guards in the room also generates concern among the workers of the Prado Museum, both due to the need to cover all shifts and the consolidation of the positions currently occupied by temporary staff. This institution convened a year and three months ago an opposition for 28 surveillance positions and, to this day, it is still unknown when the exam will be held. According to its bases, the maximum period for holding the exercise is eight months. August being a non-working month, the Museum has been in breach of the rules since April 28 of this year, according to the experts consulted. Sources from the Prado Museum indicate that the deadlines are usually indicative.
The Museum reported in June that the opposition would not be held before September 15, but since then, rumors have circulated about possible dates for the exam, but no official communication. These are positions that, moreover, come from long ago, since 11 of them belong to the Public Employment Offer (OEP) of 2018. The OPEs must be executed within a maximum period of three years and, on this occasion, the resolution of call has been published two days before the end of the term. According to the experts consulted, it is interpretable whether or not the term has expired, and therefore the call expired, depending on whether the date of the publication of the call in the BOE (July 31) or the date of the exam ( which is still unknown).
Another 14 places come from the 2019 OEP and the remaining three are a reserve for people with disabilities. In the same call, the temporary job bank must be renewed, which will be made up of 450 candidates and will be formed with those who apply but do not get a place.
The trade unions consulted affirm that the Public Administration still has unresolved contests for the 2018 offer and that the pandemic has generated great delays in the procedures.
Petition in the Madrid Assembly
A week ago, the Minister of Culture of the Community of Madrid asked the Minister of Culture to solve the problem of the room guards, alleging that “in some cases 50% of the space has been closed” and that the situation may lead to a “negative impact” on tourism. With the latest irruption of two climate activists in the Prado Museum, the counselor Marta Rivera de la Cruz has related both issues and highlighted that the Government of the Community of Madrid had already warned of the lack of security guards in the museums : “At a time when there have been vandalism attacks in different European art galleries, a problem of control in the rooms seems especially worrying to me,” said the minister. The affected workers, however, prefer to insist that “it is often forgotten or not emphasized enough” that the room guards are “evacuation personnel in case of an emergency”, says an employee who prefers to remain anonymous.
Miquel Iceta responded to Rivera’s request with a letter in which he assures that the vacant positions “will be filled with the call for the 2020 Public Employment Offer, which will be published in early 2023.” Provisionally, says Iceta, “the temporary hiring of workers will be carried out to reinforce the workforce.” It is expected that when the contest is resolved, there will be a stable workforce of 80 workers in the 16 state-run museums. “Of these 80 places, 76 will be destined for customer service positions”, say sources from the Ministry of Culture.
With the recent news that the Culture budgets for 2023 will be more ambitious than ever, the problem is also expected to be solved. Miquel Iceta assured that among the 600 officials who are expected to be hired, there will also be places for the institutions that depend on the Ministry: “This is happening because the previous government set a zero replacement rate for sick leave and retirement. They were not covered, but since the progressive government arrived it is no longer zero and we are making an important effort”, said the minister in the presentation of the cultural budgets.