London National Gallery Strike to Escalate in August

Some 2,000 protesters supporting National Gallery workers at Trafalgar Square in May, 2015. Photo: Guy Smallman.
Some 2,000 protesters supporting National Gallery workers at Trafalgar Square in May, 2015. Photo: Guy Smallman.
Staff at the National Gallery on strike earlier this month over the privatisation of services.Photo: the Guardian

Staff at the National Gallery on strike earlier this month over the privatization of services.
Photo: the Guardian

While New York’s Museum of Modern Art has settled its union dispute, the ongoing staffing crisis at London’s National Gallery of Art seems poised to continue, with a strike involving all union workers set to begin on August 17.

The Public and Commercial Services union has informed the museum of its plans, which include four additional days of strikes on August 4, 5, 6, and 12. The union voted overwhelmingly in favor of an all-out strike.

“Our members in the National Gallery have been engaged in a heroic struggle to defend the functions of a national institution,” said Mark Serwotka, the union’s general secretary, in a statement.

London’s Natioanal Gallery staff protest outside the museumPhoto: Ben Stansall via Yahoo

London’s Natioanal Gallery staff protest outside the museum
Photo: Ben Stansall via Yahoo

The strike is in response to the museum’s stated intentions of replacing hundreds of union workers in security and visitor services with privatized employees. The union is also fighting the termination of a senior representative, Candy Udwin.

Outgoing museum director Nicholas Penny approved the proposed switch to private labor. Earlier this month, however, he performed what the Socialist Worker described as “a spectacular U-turn,” telling the Telegraph that “I would very much prefer to keep all the gallery assistants as part of the gallery.”

The museum’s official position does not appear to have shifted quite as dramatically. In a statement to Reuters, the institution noted that its modernization program was essential and that “the National Gallery needs to introduce new working practices for some visitor-facing and security staff to enable [us] to operate more flexibly.”

Some 2,000 protesters supporting National Gallery workers at Trafalgar Square in May, 2015.  Photo: Guy Smallman.

Some 2,000 protesters supporting National Gallery workers at Trafalgar Square in May, 2015.
Photo: Guy Smallman.

To date, union members have gone on strike on 52 separate days, leading to the cancellation of some educational events and the closure of several rooms.

“This dispute is not going to quietly disappear, and we call again on the employer to engage seriously with us to find a resolution,” added Serwotka.


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