Workers fighting privatisation of their jobs walk out today after 50 strikes
STAFF at the National Gallery will be on a continuous strike from today in their long fight against privatisation, while a new director prepares to takeover management of the venue.
Members of Civil Service union PCS are taking fresh action over the gallery’s decision to outsource visitor services jobs to private firm Securitas, including those of gallery assistants who look after priceless paintings and answer guests’ queries.
PCS says that the five-year £40 million contract would create a two-tier system for workers with different rights allocated to the 400 existing National Gallery employees.
The union said last week that the agreement with the global profiteers was brought forward and that they view it “as a deliberately inflammatory move by management.”
Union members, who have already been on strike for more than 50 days since February, have also called for the reinstatement of their senior representative Candy Udwin — an art handling administrator who was dismissed.
An interim tribunal has found that it was likely that the gallery unlawfully sacked Ms Udwin for trade union activity over the privatisation dispute on the eve of the first strike.
A full tribunal hearing is planned for October.
New director Gabriele Finaldi — who will start his job next Monday — will be met by the Trafalgar Square picket line every day from 9am to 11am, except on Fridays when strikers will protest from 5pm to 6.30pm.
National Gallery workers are calling on Mr Finadli to meet the union to resolve the long-running row after his predecessor Dr Nicholas Penny retires this month.
Dr Penny sympathised with PCS and said the plan to privatise visitor-facing jobs was a “great sadness.”
He added: “I would very much prefer to keep all the gallery assistants as part of the gallery. If they’re not, they don’t feel part of the institution in the same way.”
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We had asked the new director to step in to resolve this dispute before taking over but now his first week will be greeted by a continuous strike. We remain ready to negotiate.
“We do not believe this privatisation is in any way necessary and we fear for the reputation the gallery rightly enjoys around the world as one of our country’s greatest cultural assets.”