Another strike at the National Gallery

October 16 2014

Image of Another strike at the National Gallery

Picture: Museums Journal

There was a strike by room wardens yesterday at the National Gallery, timed deliberately to coincide with the opening to the public of 'Late Rembrandt'. 40 out of 66 rooms had to be closed. But the Rembrandt show remained open, and the media paid little attention to the strike. So that's 1-0 to the National Gallery then.

Not that 'Late Rembrandt' was very busy. A reader who was there writes:

The crowds at the first afternoon of the Rembrandt exhibition were modest with rarely more than five or so people in front of each painting and fewer in front of the paper works.

As regular readers will know, it seems clear to me that the PCS Union's strategy at the National has been little short of disastrous. This latest action will only harden the NG's resolve to de-unionise their staff.

Update - there's some anti-National Gallery briefing in the Daily Mail:

The National Gallery’s ‘blockbuster’ new Rembrandt exhibition has been hailed a triumph by the critics, but visitors might be advised to keep a close eye on the masterpieces.

Some experienced security guards were replaced earlier this year by agency staff and sources claim the change is proving a disaster.

‘Five of them didn’t bother to turn up for training, while another has been sacked over a foul prank in a toilet,’ claims an insider.

‘When others were given a tour of the gallery, some showed little interest, texting away on their phones.

‘They have been spotted touching paintings and even caught on camera in the Rembrandt exhibition stroking works loaned to the gallery. They have apparently received warnings to stop, but this is really shocking.’

The gallery declines to discuss the claims. ‘We would never comment on matters relating to individual staff members as these are confidential between those involved and the National Gallery,’ a spokeswoman says.

However, she adds: ‘Safety and security are of paramount concern. CIS Security employees are vetted to the same level as existing staff; they will also undertake similar levels of training and assume identical responsibilities.’

When I went to the Rembrandt show on Tuesday, I thought the wardens, even if they were 'privatised' ones, were more zealous than ever. I was warned at least twice not to get too close to the pictures, or to point, and this was during a press preview, and in front of glazed pictures. 


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