PCS members to take action over privatisation plans

National GalleryWorkers at the National Gallery have voted overwhelmingly to strike over plans to hand all visitor services to a private company.

In a ballot that closed on Friday, 94% of PCS members voted for strikes on a 62% turnout. The decision means extended periods of industrial action are now likely if senior managers press ahead.

Gallery bosses announced plans last year to privatise almost all staff, including those who look after the paintings and help the gallery’s six million annual visitors.

They have also reneged on a promise to introduce the London living wage, meaning the institution is the only major museum or gallery in the capital that does not pay it.

From this week, private security firm CIS has taken over the whole of the Sainsbury wing – which houses masterpieces by Raphael, Botticelli and Fra Angelico – for the rest of this year without any competitive tender or consultation.

The company was brought in to cover the gallery’s Rembrandt exhibition last autumn. Its promotional brochure advertises its services as guarding empty buildings, door security and CCTV monitoring.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “With this vote, staff are telling their managers loudly and clearly they do not want to work for a private security firm, they want to carry on working for the National Gallery.

“This reckless sell-off plan risks damaging the worldwide reputation of what is one of the UK’s greatest cultural assets, and we are determined to stop it.”

* PCS members working in the justice sector in Scotland are today taking strike action over pay.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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