The "National Gallery 27" win their case

February 28 2019


Some breaking art history news; the group of lecturers suing the National Gallery in London have won their case. Background here. More to follow.

Update - from the NG27's press release:

Twenty seven Claimants who started litigation against the National Gallery over a year ago have won their case to be given the rights of workers. This status case is believed to be the first in the public sector and comes in the wake of several high profile gig economy cases, such as the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Uber.

The Employment Tribunal found that the Claimants were in fact workers, despite having been denied their legal right to this status by the National Gallery for decades. The Tribunal Judge concluded that “in short, the Claimants worked ‘for’ the Gallery as members of its team of educators” despite arguments to the contrary by the Gallery.

These individuals had worked for the National Gallery collectively for over 500 years before their existing arrangements were brought to an abrupt end in October 2017. During their collective tenure, they had not been given any holiday, sick pay, pension or maternity pay despite having paid taxes through the payroll as employees. One individual had worked for the Gallery for over 45 years without these benefits which most people take for granted as part of their working relationship. They were denied these rights as the National Gallery alleged that they were “self-employed” a position which the Employment Tribunal Judge has found to be “unsustainable”. About the Gallery’s arguments the Judge said that “it is unreal to describe the dealings between the parties as transactions in which the Gallery stood as the “client or customer of any business undertaking” carried on by any of the lead Claimants”.

Without wishing to take anything away from the NG27's legal team, it seems to me that it was always likely the lecturers would win. I cannot understand why the National Gallery contested the case (to say nothing of why they decided to dismiss the lecturers in the first place). It speaks of a distant, arrogant institution, blind to logic, and deaf to reason. The case should act as a wake up call to the leadership, and the trustees. But I doubt it will. 

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