Arts and Entertainment

National Gallery staff strike action

The National Gallery

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Image: Manolo Blanco. Under creative commons license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ (image has been resized)

Staff at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square have begun a five day walk-out.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union have established a picket line outside the gallery, protesting against changes to staffing and the use of private suppliers.

The National Gallery is free to enter and is one of the world’s most frequently visited art museums.

Most of the gallery is open during the strike action, although planned education events are being rescheduled.

The disagreement between union members and the gallery leadership stems from a decision to privatise some gallery services.

Private security firm CIS are currently looking after the gallery’s Salisbury wing.

PCS also claim that gallery management have reneged on a promise to pay employees the London living wage, and that a senior union rep has been suspended.

General Secretary of PCS Mark Serwotka said:

This dispute and the sell-off plan are putting the global reputation of the National Gallery at risk. Suspending one of our senior reps on the eve of our strike is a disproportionate act of unfathomable bad faith and […] she [should] be reinstated immediately

However, in a statement on their website, the National Gallery states that there are no planned job cuts and employment terms will be protected.

The gallery claims that staff changes are part of a modernisation programme.

The programme aims to broaden access to the collections and increase the number of younger visitors, as well as expanding the education and public events programmes. According to the website:

To allow these plans to be implemented, the National Gallery needs to introduce a new roster for some visitor-facing and security staff to enable the National Gallery to operate more flexibly.

Talks had been held at the conciliation service Acas, but the parties failed to reach an agreement.

Around 250 staff are involved in the disagreement, with strike action due to continue until Saturday the 7th of February.

The National Gallery is hoping to stay open throughout, but there will be some changes to normal running, and visitors should check the website before making a trip to the gallery.

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