Union to oppose National Gallery privatisation plan

Simon Stephens, 08.07.2014
London gallery wants to contract-out visitor services and security
London’s National Gallery is facing union opposition to its plan to privatise its security and visitor services.

The National Gallery revealed last week that it wanted to find a company to manage security, visitor services and visitor engagement (about 400 people are employed in these areas). The gallery said it wants more “more flexibility to meet the changing expectations of our visitors in an environment where our income is decreasing”.

But the PCS union, which represents about 180 National Gallery staff, said it will mount a "vigorous and visible campaign" against plans to privatise all visitor services at one of the UK's most important cultural attractions.

PCS said a recent privatisation at the Imperial War Museums (IWM) is “leading to a knowledge drain as experienced staff leave, and an increased use of zero-hours contracts and more unstable working”.

A National Gallery statement said: “In the event that the National Gallery does sign a contract with a supplier, TUPE [Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment] will apply in order to protect the terms, conditions and interests of any staff who transfer to the new supplier. This is a transfer process and there will be no redundancies as a result of this undertaking.”

PCS represents staff, many of them working in visitor services, at a number of UK museums, including the British Museum, IWM, National Gallery, Tate, National Museums Liverpool, National Galleries of Scotland and National Museums Scotland.

The National Gallery announcement comes before a walkout by up to a million public sector workers, including members of PCS, planned for 10 July.

The National Gallery announced last month that its director, Nicholas Penny, is to retire in 2015.


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12.07.2014, 11:55
Join the Campaign to defend our museums and galleries and say no to privatisation at the National Gallery

Sign the petition:

We call for
: • The National Gallery to remain a public service and the privatisation to be halted.
• The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to review the running of the Gallery.

Why is this important?

The National Gallery has decided to privatise up to 400 of its 600 staff including those who look after security of the paintings, deal with the public and requests for information about the collection, complaints, school bookings and more.

This came just a week after Director Nicholas Penny announced his resignation. Ten senior managers at the Gallery have left, been made redundant or dismissed in the last two years. A temporary “Security Consultant” responsible for the privatisation used to work for G4S, the private security firm. Only last November the Gallery Executive endorsed the view that privatisation could not guarantee quality of service and would not save money. Now they and the Board of Trustees have announced privatisation is the only option. This petition is initiated by the PCS union (Culture Sector) and so far supported officially by the Peoples' Assembly, the Musicians' Union, Lost Arts, BECTU and SERTUC
12.07.2014, 11:10
What are the changing expectations of visitors to the National Gallery? Do they just want visitor services to operate like security staff and not say anything apart from giving directions to toilets and the exit or do they want security staff to become more like the position of Visitor services staff who are meant to be knowledgeable and passionate?