London’s National Gallery has called strike action after a private security firm was hired to manage visitor services, in its plans for privatisation. Members of PCS (Public Commerical Services Union) are due to take part in a series of strikes this week. Continuous strike action is also planned to start 17 August — the date that Gabriele Finaldi takes up his new position as director of the gallery, replacing Sir Nicholas Penny.
The gallery said in a statement that it had hired Securitas, in a contract valued at over £40m stretched over a five year period. The reenforced their commitment to ‘Modernisation’ which would provide user experience and services to their six million customers.
The gallery has committed to a policy of natural wastage which ensures that no staff will be made redundant. They also would continue to pay the London Living Wage. The statement also reiterated that the gallery already employed private firms, such as Antenna and Peyton and Byrne to keep the museum running smoothly.
The gallery said in a statement, “Securitas has a proven track record in security and visitor engagement roles in the arts and cultural sector globally.” A union spokesman at the PCS, said, “the appointment of Securitas would affect around 400 people working in front-of-house, ticket sales and security”.
They added, that while affected staffs’ current terms and conditions would protected under a Transfer of Undertakings, Protection and Employment regulations, those directly employed by Securitas in the future would have different entitlements, creating a two-tiered workforce. Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of PCS, said: “It is extremely disappointing that while PCS continues to try to reach a negotiated settlement, gallery management has pressed on with privatisation without any further engagement with the union.”
PCS members at the Museum have had more than 50 days of industrial action over the privatisation plans, union representitive Candy Udwin, said they are currently waiting for a new date for an appeal hearing with management and staff at the Museum. The last one was adjourned. It is now know that Udwin has been suspended on full pay.