Detail from Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine

Da Vinci exhibition faces threat of staff walkout

Gary Noakes, Issue 111/11, p4, 01.11.2011
Attendants balloted for action in National Gallery security row
The National Gallery (NG) faces possible disruption to this month’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibition following a threatened protest by staff.

Gallery attendants are considering action during the Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan exhibition after some were told that they would have to watch over two rooms rather than one.

Following the spending review, the gallery has a policy of not replacing staff when they leave. Attendants claimed the cutbacks allowed the vandalism of two Nicolas Poussin paintings in July because an employee was in an adjoining room.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) opened an indicative ballot last month to test sentiment.

The timing meant it was too late to prompt full-scale industrial action at the start of the exhibition on 9 November, but it could threaten it over the Christmas period as the exhibition runs until 5 February.

“It is not about strike action, it is about what sort of measures they feel they may be prepared to take,” said a PCS spokesman.

Disruption is most likely to involve walkouts for part of the day. These will be particularly effective as timed admissions will be disrupted if galleries are cleared.

The latest dispute follows last year’s pay negotiations, when staff at the gallery staged a series of three-hour walkouts.

A National Gallery spokeswoman said: “We have not received any notification that there will be a ballot for industrial action, but we will be prepared for it.”

One-third of National Gallery rooms are invigilated by a single member of staff covering two areas.

In a statement, the National Gallery said: “The change in the number of gallery assistants is an incremental one and claims that the National Gallery is ‘halving its surveillance’ are untrue.”

The spokeswoman added that any staff reductions were the result of natural turnover.

“What we are doing is nothing new,” she said. “Other galleries do exactly the same.”


Comments

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Anonymous
30.10.2013, 20:36
...typical. No one listens to the staff who are the best to assess if there are serious concerns for doing their job because of cuts. On paper the numbers may work-in reality there are all the small details such as the sheer size of rooms, blind spots, larger numbers than usual, etc...
And yes, other galleries unfortunately do exactly the same but it is not the result of a 'natural turnover'( whatever that might mean in PR talk...).
The best people to ask what makes their work difficult and how to make it more effective for them are the individuals actually doing the work!
When all the money and focus is on the pulling power and PR of a blockbuster exhibition they start saving on resources (including staffing numbers). Not only is this an acute security risk- it might also be an indication that a Museum/ Art Gallery is getting its priorities wrong.