London’s Tate museum has come under fire from Union Chiefs after advertising for a “head of coffee” last week, on wages of almost £40,000 a year.
Despite praising the generosity of this salary, union leaders criticised the shocking difference between this and the pay of average staff in the heritage sector.
“The pay discrepancy highlighted is a stark reminder, not that the head of coffee is paid too much but that highly qualified museum professionals are paid far too little,” explained Alan Leighton, national secretary of the trade union Prospect.
Critics quickly compared Tate’s new Head of Coffee position to the average curator, who earns between £26,000 and £37,300 a year.
In the online description, the Head of Coffee job involves “sourcing, blending and roasting coffee for use in all Tate Eats’ sites and managing the Hot Beverage Team that is responsible for all aspects of tea and coffee delivery.”
Renowned British artist Grayson Perry decried the job advertisement, telling Twitter “I give up, they’ve won.”
Since the Museums Association found that low pay was a major problem for the sector in 2017, wages in the heritage sector have continued to fall in comparison to other sectors. Wages for assistant curators are “barely keeping up with the cost of living”, falling 25% behind rates of pay to similar roles.
“Without qualified specialist workers, there would be no galleries or museums,” reported Craig Simpson for the Telepraph.
Tate has defended its controversial decision, declaring that “it’s unfair to compare a head of department with a curatorial role of a different level.” According to Tate, “a more accurate comparison would be a curatorial team leader,” a role that can be paid around £50,000.
Although it has received harsh backlash, the front of house position will play a part in the booming UK coffee industry. In 2017, the UK’s coffee industry contributed £17.7 billion to the UK economy and created about 210,325 British jobs.
“The successful candidate will provide strong leadership,” announced Tate, “and lead a team that makes a unique, ethical, quality-driven product while delivering a profitable business model.”