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Winter of Discontent - Even National Gallery Faces Strikers

30 January 2015 | Updated 01 January 1970

The threat of the temporary closure of the National Gallery, London next Tuesday for five days, has come from what appears to be a critical deterioration in relations between the management and the 250 workforce.

Workers voted nine to one in favour of taking action following the intention of management to hand all visitor services to a private company as well as to bring pressure for it to pay the Living Wage. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) stated that ‘the private security firm, CIS, has already taken over the whole of the Sainsbury wing – which houses masterpieces by Raphael and Botticelli and – for the rest of this year without any competitive tender or consultation’.

"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," warned Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, PCS. “Senior managers 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.”

However, the National Gallery management have stated that changes have to be made to keep the institution’s place as an attraction. “If the National Gallery is to continue to thrive as a public entity and remain free to the 6 million visitors we see each year, change is essentia,” argued Nicholas Penny, Director, National Gallery. “There is no option that allows everything to stay the same when public funding has been reduced and is likely to be reduced further in the future. The National Gallery is determined to ensure that as many people as possible continue to enjoy their visit during the strike and will keep as many rooms open as possible.”

The strike, planned from Tuesday 3 to Saturday 7 February, may be averted if current talks with the conciliation service, ACAS, can bring about an agreement. The 6 million visitors that come to the National Gallery, ranks it just behind the British Museum in terms of visitor attractions in the UK.

Pictured: The National Gallery in London is set to have a five-day strike starting Tuesday, 3 February over plans to privatise its visitor services and ‘failure’ to pay the Living Wage.

Article written by Mike Gannon | Published 30 January 2015


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