National Gallery staff to walk out


Published: Sunday 22nd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Workers at a leading gallery are to stage a series of fresh strikes in a row over the privatisation of services.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union at the National Gallery in London will walk out today for five days, following a five-day stoppage earlier this month.

The union is campaigning against plans to switch visitor services to a private company.

About 200 workers are involved in the row, which sparked a 9-1 vote in favour of industrial action in a recent ballot.

The PCS has handed a 40,000-name petition to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport supporting its case.

The dispute worsened when a senior union rep involved in talks at the conciliation service Acas was suspended.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “With this privatisation plan, the National Gallery is putting its well-earned worldwide reputation at risk.

“Its decision to suspend one of our senior reps is a disproportionate and unfathomable act of bad faith and not only should she be reinstated immediately, gallery officials must commit to reopening full and proper negotiations.”

A spokesman for the National Gallery said: “All planned education events have had to be cancelled or rescheduled.

“During the last strike a third of the National Gallery remained open to the public and we hope that visitors will again be able to enjoy large parts of the gallery during this strike action.

“However, the negative impact this strike action makes on our education events is significant and damaging. All education events have had to be cancelled. The most acutely affected area is the National Gallery’s programme for schools and teachers, which included daily sessions for primary aged children including children with special educational needs.

“During the previous strike action, a week of planned education activities with one whole school that had programmed an entire scheme of work around bringing students from every year group to the gallery had to be cancelled. This meant an entire school – every year group – lost out.

“The National Gallery is a public asset and has a duty to ensure the collection and the gallery itself is accessible as much as possible, to as many people as possible.

“The PCS opposes the introduction of a new roster for some visitor facing and security staff which would enable us to operate more flexibly. In conjunction with the new roster we proposed not only to meet the London Living Wage, but to pay a basic salary in excess of it. Regardless, from April we will pay staff a top-up which will bring salaries in line with the London Living Wage. As a result of the PCS position, we will now appoint 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.”

Published: Sunday 22nd February 2015 by The News Editor

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