A second five-day strike over the privatisation of services at London’s National Gallery has been announced by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union. This will be the second strike in a month at the gallery which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK
The walk out, will start on the 24 February until the 1 March. Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said the gallery was “putting its well-earned worldwide reputation as risk”. The union first held industrial action on 2 February over the gallery’s proposals to outsource many of their services. Talks at the conciliation service Acas broke down and was suspended on the eve of the strike.
According to the PCS, the National Gallery plans “to privatise almost all staff, including those who look after the paintings and help the gallery’s six million annual visitors”. “They 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,” it said. The PCS has handed a 40,000 name petition to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport supporting its case.
The National Gallery has stated that change “was essential” if the gallery was to continue “to thrive as a public entity with reduced public money”. “There is no option that allows everything to stay the same”, gallery director Nicholas Penny said. “The proposed changes are necessary to enable the National Gallery to increase income in the face of a reduced grant and increasing maintenance and running costs, and to enable it to pay all staff a minimum of the London living wage.