National Gallery appoints Securitas despite strikes over privatisation

Union members due to take continuous strike action from 17 August
Nicola Sullivan
The National Gallery in London appointed a private security firm to manage visitor-facing services shortly before another round of strikes against its privatisation plans.

In a press statement, the gallery said its contract with Securitas, worth £40m over five years, was part of its commitment to modernisation and would provide a better service to its six million annual visitors.

The gallery also said that no staff members would be made redundant, and those affected would continue to be paid at the London Living Wage. It also highighted that a number of other staff working at the gallery are employed by private firms, including Antenna and Peyton and Byrne.    

“Securitas has a proven track record in security and visitor engagement roles in the arts and cultural sector globally,” the gallery said in a statement.

A spokesman at Public Commerical Services Union (PCS) said the appointment of Securitas would affect around 400 people working in front-of-house, ticket sales and security.

A PCS spokesman said 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.”

Members of PCS are due to take part in a series of strikes this week. Continuous strike action will start 17 August -- the date that Gabriele Finaldi will take up his new position as director of the gallery. He will replace Nicholas Penny.  

So far PCS members at the National Gallery have taken more than 50 days of strike action against privatisation plans and the dismissal of lead union rep Candy Udwin, who is currently waiting for a new date for her appeal hearing. Her previous hearing with management staff at the gallery was adjourned. A PCS spokesman said that Udwin had been suspended but is receiving full pay.

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