Everybody out! (ctd.)

May 25 2015

Image of Everybody out! (ctd.)

Picture: TAN

The PCS union has called yet another strike at the National Gallery in London (the Mail reports). This time it is for ten days, and will cause much of the Gallery to be closed over half term. There have been 24 strike days since February alone.

The action is over the 'privatisation' of some services at the National Gallery, and the dismissal of PCS (and Socialist Worker's Party) member Candy Udwin (above). I have long suspected, however, that the PCS union is using the Gallery as a means to highlight its wider agenda - a National Gallery strike readily earns press attention. The PCS' secretary, Mark Serwotka, says this about the latest strike, and calls for a demonstration outside the Gallery on May 30th:

'This privatisation plan is totally unnecessary and is damaging the well-earned reputation of the gallery and the sacking of our representative, Candy, is a disgraceful attack on our union.'

'Our demonstration is not just about this sell-off and the victimisation of Candy, it is an opportunity to oppose the kind of Tory cuts being cited as a rationale to hive off staff to the private sector.'

But the real news of the day is that the National Gallery, exasperated by the Union's bone-headedness, has now decided to go ahead with the full 'privatisation' of certain visitor services, most notably the room wardens. The Gallery's Sainsbury Wing and exhibition space have been managed for some time by a private sector company, CIS, seemingly without incident, and have remained open throughout all the strike days.

The Gallery said today:

'The PCS opposes the introduction of a new roster for some visitor facing and security staff which would enable us to operate more flexibly. In conjunction with the new roster we also proposed not only to meet the London Living Wage, but to pay a basic salary in excess of it.'

'As a result of the PCS position, we are now appointing an external partner to manage these services. Affected staff will transfer across - there will be no job cuts and terms and conditions will be protected.'

A total defeat for the PCS Union then. The PCS Union used to say that the National Gallery were refusing to pay 'the living wage', but this is clearly not the case, and it is noticeable that they no longer make this claim.

As far as I understand it, the real issue was not over 'privatisation' as such, but over-time. Over the years, the wardens (and other staff) had had to make do with a low basic rate, but a more generous over-time one. The new arrangements seek to redress that balance. We can only hope that everything works out, and that all the NG staff are better off as a result of both the new deal, and a more stable working environment.

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