National Gallery strike suspended - Museums Association

National Gallery strike suspended

Union members have been fighting privatisation
Profile image for Gareth Harris
Gareth Harris
A strike at London’s National Gallery over privatisation has been suspended after the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) agreed a deal with museum management.

Union members have been on strike for more than 100 days over the gallery's plans to outsource security, visitor services and ticketing to a private company.

PCS members set up picket lines in Trafalgar Square in February when the privatisation plans were first announced. In July, the gallery appointed Securitas, a private security firm, as its partner “to manage some visitor-facing and security staff services”.

In a statement, the gallery said that the contract with Securitas is worth £40m over five years. PCS started an indefinite strike on 11 August.

As part of the agreement, the private contractor has agreed to protect terms and conditions for union workers. Candy Udwin, a senior union representative at the gallery who was dismissed in May, will also be reinstated, while gallery staff will be paid the London living wage of £9.15 an hour.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of PCS, said in a statement: "We still do not believe privatisation was necessary, but we will work with the new company and the gallery to ensure a smooth transition and, importantly, to ensure standards are maintained at this world-renowned institution."

PCS members will now be balloted over the deal. The culture minister Ed Vaizey also needs to approve the agreement.

The strike led to a closure of half of the gallery’s rooms during the summer, when there was a 35% drop in visitor numbers, from 485,000 to 317,000, compared with the same period last year.

Gabriele Finaldi, the former deputy director for collections and research at the Prado museum in Madrid, replaced Nicholas Penny as the director of the National Gallery on 17 August. The institution is seeking to cut costs following a 15% drop in grant-in-aid funding since 2011.

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