Union Rep’s Suspension Fuels Staff’s Anger at London’s National Gallery

Demonstrators protest outside the National Gallery in central London on February 3, 2015. Photo credit JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images.

Following a five-day strike earlier this month, members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union at the National Gallery in London are staging new strikes this week, the BBC reports. The walkouts are in response to the proposed privatization of the gallery’s visitor-facing and security services (see Staffing Crisis at London’s National Gallery, and Strike Partially Closes National Gallery).

Roughly 200 workers are involved in the dispute, which considerably worsened after the suspension of Candy Udwin, a senior union rep involved in talks at the conciliation service Acas, on the eve of the first set of walkouts.

PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said “With this privatisation plan, the National Gallery is putting its well-earned worldwide reputation at risk.” He added, “Its decision to suspend one of our senior reps is a disproportionate and unfathomable act of bad faith.”

The privatization row sparked a 9-1 vote in favour of industrial action in a recent ballot, and the PCS was able to hand a 40,000-signature petition to the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport supporting their case.

A spokesman on behalf of the National Gallery said: “All planned education events have had to be cancelled or rescheduled.” Despite this, the public was reassured that “During the last strike a third of the National Gallery remained open to the public and we hope that visitors will again be able to enjoy large parts of the gallery during this strike action.”

Talks between the union and the National Gallery are due to be held at Acas this week.

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