PCS members announce dates for strike action over privatisation

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Public (PSI), PCS, UK unions,

National GalleryWorkers at the National Gallery are next week to walk out for five days over plans to hand all visitor services to a private company.

The PCS members hope their action will put the spotlight on a sell-off that threatens the reputation of the country’s second most visited major attraction.

Last week the union announced members had voted by more than nine to one for industrial action on a 62% turnout. The conciliation service ACAS is brokering talks in an attempt to settle the dispute.

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.

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: “This five-day walkout will put the National Gallery in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

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

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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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