One of the UK’s most visited tourist destinations, the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, will decide whether or not they will continue industrial action indefinitely after delivering a petition signed by 130,000 supporters to the galleries new director Gabriele Finaldi. A copy will also be handed to culture minister Ed Vaizey. Finaldi has remained very quiet during the crisis. The museum is striking over the hiring of a private security firm to manage visitor services, in its plans for partial privatisation.
The PCS union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We do not believe the public want to see gallery services handed to a private security company. Privatisation is unnecessary and risky at what is one of our country’s greatest cultural assets.” A continuous strike over the sell-off started on 11 August and our members have now taken more than 75 days of industrial action since February.
The PCS met the new director shortly after he took up his post and have called for more talks to resolve the dispute. The union remains opposed to the privatisation of all the gallery’s visitor services and are fighting for the reinstatement of their senior rep Candy Udwin, who an interim tribunal found was likely to have been sacked unlawfully for trade union activity in relation to the dispute.
A picket line will remain in place outside the gallery between 9am and 11am each day, and also on Fridays from 5pm to 6.30pm. The PCS website states; “Our members working at the gallery have launched an appeal for supportacross the Labour Start international network which highlights campaigns to the international trade union movement”.
The PCS is the biggest union in the Gallery, representing more than 200 gallery assistants (‘warders’) and other staff. PCS in National Gallery is a very well-organised and active branch, as well as an important part of PCS’s CMSOA (Culture, Media and Sport Occupational Association) which coordinates PCS activity across the sector. The gallery said in a statement, “Securitas has a proven track record in security and visitor engagement roles in the arts and cultural sector globally.” A union spokesman at the PCS, said, “the appointment of Securitas would affect around 400 people working in front-of-house, ticket sales and security”.