11 Days Remaining

Friday 27th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

National Gallery strikers take on photos magnate at heart of sell-off

STRIKING National Gallery staff stormed to super-rich boss Mark Getty’s private gallery yesterday, vowing to keep him in the spotlight until hated privatisation plans are ditched.

As public-sector union PCS wound up its second five-day walk-out at the gallery, sister union Prospect confirmed it would consider industrial action if a settlement was not reached in upcoming negotiation talks.

Employees are fighting plans to outsource security and visitor services staff to privateer contractors.

A lunchtime rally saw workers brave torrential rain to march from their Trafalgar Square home to the Getty Images gallery, off Oxford Street, which is owned by board of trustees’ chairman Mr Getty.

Leading the charge, PCS culture sector president Clara Paillard slammed Mr Getty’s firm for making money from selling copyrights to cultural institutions.

She branded their dealings on behalf of the tycoon, who is worth £314 million, a “conflict of interest” and a “misuse of public money.”

And she called for culture to be valued as a public good and a means of resistance. “Our aim is to use art as a weapon,” she told onlookers.

Before the procession, strikers heard messages of support from workers at the Tate galleries and French union centre CGT.

Save Our Hospitals campaigner Anne Drinkell linked the workers’ fight to the struggle against privatisation in the health service.

“Back in the day you could only see pictures in rich people’s houses and cathedrals,” she said.

“The ethos of the National Gallery is that it’s for everyone and that’s the same as the NHS.

“Health and culture are like bread and roses, and we need both.”

The crowd was also addressed by a representative from Prospect, whose members at the gallery are not currently on strike.

Refusing to rule out any strategies, a spokesperson told the Star: “Our members are affected too.

“Our members here have been on strike in the past, and we’ve raised concerns with management about their proposals.

“We’d be fully prepared to back it up with industrial action if that’s necessary.”

Shenagh Govan, from actors’ union Equity, said she was there to “stand up against any cuts in the arts, and against victimisation and bullying.”

PCS rep Candy Udwin remains suspended for an alleged confidentiality breach ahead of the first five-day strike — charges the union says are “trumped-up.”

Reps handed a letter to Getty Images gallery staff urging trustees to consider alternative proposals for reforms that PCS says would allow for expanding hours and services while protecting workers’ conditions.

And Ms Paillard, who challenged Mr Getty to a public debate on the proposals, vowed: “We will continue to press Mark Getty and to find ways to take our message to him. We will not go away.”