Staff Ends London National Gallery 100-Day Strike Over Privatization

The privatization is going ahead, but the union has secured a deal.

London’s National Gallery employees are returning to work today, putting an end to a long-standing dispute over the privatization of its visitor and security services that triggered an indefinite strike.

Public and Commercial Services (PCS), the union that has been organizing the industrial action, announced on Friday that its members voted unanimously in favor of returning to work after an agreement was reached.

“We are […] pleased to have reached an agreement with the gallery and contractor Securitas that would mean protection of terms and conditions and a return to work for our senior rep Candy Udwin,” reads a statement published on the PCS website.

“We thank the new director, Gabriele Finaldi, and the company for their commitment to genuine negotiations. Strike action is being suspended pending ministerial approval and a ballot of our members over the deal, which also includes union recognition with the company and the London living wage.”

Gabriele FinaldiPhoto via: ABC

Gabriele Finaldi
Photo via: ABC

It seems that Finaldi, who began his tenure at the helm of the National Gallery in August, has succeeded in solving the most pressing problem he inherited from Nicholas Penny, whose otherwise highly successful seven-year-directorship was tainted towards the end by this workers’ dispute.

Since February, workers of the prestigious London museum have been staging strikes, totaling 100 days, to protest over plans to privatize some of its visitor and security services, outsourcing them, according to BBC, to the private contractor Securitas, as part of a £40 million contract over five years.

The privatization of the services has gone through—the agreement with Securitas was signed in August and will kick off in November—but Finaldi has managed to offer enough security to the aggrieved workers that they have decided to end the industrial action.

London's National Gallery. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

London’s National Gallery.
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

“We still do not believe privatization was necessary but we will work with the new company and the gallery to ensure a smooth transition and, importantly, to ensure standards are maintained at this world-renowned institution,” PCS has declared.

According to the Independent, the continuous strike that began on August 11 has seen visitor numbers at the National Gallery drop by 35 percent.

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