PCS says sell-off plan is “reckless” and risks damaging the reputation of one of UK’s greatest cultural assets

PCS National GalleryPCS members at the National Gallery today begin a five-day strike over plans to hand all visitor services to a private company.

The walkout will put the spotlight on a sell-off that threatens the reputation of the country’s second most visited major attraction, the union says.

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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