The strike will take place between 1pm and 3pm with other walkouts planned for 19th and 28 January
The Staff at London’s most prestigious museum the National Gallery walk out for two hours today in a protest over job cuts. The gallery said it will try to keep the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition open but could not guarantee it. A gallery spokesman stated; “The National Gallery will endeavour to keep as many gallery rooms open as possible, prioritising the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan’ exhibition to fulfil its obligation to people who already have tickets for that day.”
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) decided to call the action over cuts to the arts which has seen staff cuts of guards and other museum workers in some rooms cut by half. “The National Gallery will endeavour to keep as many gallery rooms open as possible, prioritising the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan’ exhibition to fulfil its obligation to people who already have tickets for that day,” a gallery spokesman said.
Before the Christmas holiday, over 200 members of gallery staff, including curators, presented gallery director Nicholas Penny with a petition demonstrating their opposition to new measures which mean each gallery assistant now oversees two rooms rather than one. Whilst gallery officials maintain that this initiative is part of a long-term strategy rather than a response to government pressure, those in opposition claim that the change of policy is detrimental to the gallery as it will leave valuable artworks open to vandalism or theft. Security in general seems to be a growing concern at the National Gallery, as this month saw a theft take place, albeit a bizarre one; a man managed to leave the gallery in possession of four toilet seats. Negotiations, mediated by the Public and and Commercial Services Union, have been held between officials and gallery staff but apparently to no avail, as almost 180 members of staff voted for strike action in an initial ballot.
The strike will now take place between 1pm and 3pm 1300 GMT and 1500 GMT with other walkouts planned for 19th and 28 January. Union officials have stated that 15-percent cuts in government funding, introduced as part of an austerity measure designed to reduce the overall budget deficit, has led to a reduction of assistant posts where there is no longer one assistant on duty per room.
The PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “As well as hosting high-profile exhibitions like Da Vinci, the gallery is home to some incredibly valuable works of art, not just in monetary terms but in their contribution to culture and our society.
The Spokesman added; “Instead of investing in the arts, and the people who look after them, the government has imposed massive spending cuts on our museums and galleries to pay for an economic crisis caused by bankers.”