Demo over gallery privatisation bid

Published: Saturday 30th May 2015 by The News Editor

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A protest will be held today in a bitter dispute over plans to privatise services at a leading gallery.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union at the National Gallery in central London are currently mid-way through a 10-day strike, which hit this week’s school holidays.

There have been more than 20 days of industrial action since February, and the dispute worsened when union rep Candy Udwin was suspended before the first strike and subsequently sacked.

Film director Ken Loach, Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger and comedian Kate Smurthwaite will join activists and PCS members at a rally in Trafalgar Square, just yards from the gallery.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The National Gallery is a much-loved institution and it must be stopped from damaging its own reputation. It must halt this pointless privatisation and reinstate staff member and PCS rep Candy Udwin immediately.

“This could be the future for all of us unless we act now. As a new Tory government announces its intention to pass a union-busting bill, it is vital that this rally is also a mass protest against victimisation and attacks on our rights.”

A gallery statement said: “The PCS opposes the introduction of a new roster for some visitor facing and security staff which would enable us to operate more flexibly.

“As a result of the PCS position, we are now appointing an external partner to manage these services. Affected staff will transfer across; there will be no job cuts and terms and conditions will be protected.

“We are one of the last major national UK museums to take this step.

“We believe the proposed changes are essential to enable us to deliver an enhanced service to our six million annual visitors for many years to come, and to remain as one of the world’s leading art galleries. It is unfortunate the PCS union do not share this aspiration with us.

“In addition, the National Gallery has just announced it will pay the London Living Wage.”

Published: Saturday 30th May 2015 by The News Editor

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