National Gallery closed 27 rooms in strike - Museums Association

National Gallery closed 27 rooms in strike

Gallery assistants strike over job cuts
Patrick Steel
Coinciding with the opening of the Olympics, gallery assistants at the National Gallery walked out on Friday to protest job cuts at the museum, forcing the NG to close 27 rooms in the gallery. A further strike on Saturday saw 30 rooms closed.

Museums Journal understands that some members of union PCS from Tate and the National Portrait Gallery, although not on the strike, also came out to demonstrate their support for the strike.

Wynne Parry, PCS secretary, said: “Prior to 2010 there was one gallery assistant for each room. Now gallery assistants are expected to look after two or three rooms.

“We think one gallery assistant per room is the best way of protecting those rooms and adding to the visitor experience.”

Last year, Nicolas Poussin’s painting Adoration of the Golden Calf was vandalised at the National Gallery in a room without an assistant. The union, which represents almost 90% of the National Gallery’s 150 gallery assistants, said this wouldn't have happened if a member of staff had been in attendance at the time.

A spokeswoman for the National Gallery said: “The National Gallery has increased the number of rooms in which a gallery assistant invigilates to two rooms rather than one.

“This is not unusual or controversial in the museum and gallery field. Quite the contrary, the majority of galleries within London, throughout the UK, across Europe and far beyond, all employ similar systems.

“The change has been made because the National Gallery and others believe this to be a more effective and reliable means of invigilation and it has been implemented with the full approval of the current national security adviser.

“The security of the collection is of paramount concern to the National Gallery.”

Parry said that PCS would continue to keep up pressure on the National Gallery, and is planning further strikes on Saturday 4 August and Saturday 11 August.

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