National Gallery closures as staff begin indefinite strike

Over 200 of the National Gallery’s staff have today begun an indefinite strike that will leave significant portions of the gallery closed to the public.

A row over the privitisation of the gallery’s workforce has meant that the gallery – the fourth most visited museum in the world – has seen 56 days of strike action since February this year.

The PCS union, which is organising the industrial action, is protesting the plans to privatise 400 jobs, which the gallery says will allow it to “operate more flexibly and deliver an enhanced service”.

Speaking to the BBC, Nick McCarthy, the union’s director of campaigns and communications, said: “We have no alternative but to go on strike, the privatisation is completely unnecessary.

“Today’s strike is indefinite until such time as we are able to reach a solution with the gallery.

“Millions of tourists won’t be able to get access to the vast majority of works of art in the gallery, and that’s enormously regrettable, but the blame for this lies with the gallery. We have sought to negotiate, but the gallery refuses to engage on this and seems hell bent on outsourcing this contract.”

In a statement, the National Gallery said: “Our ongoing modernisation programme is designed to encourage a broader (and younger) audience to access the wealth of cultural inspiration the National Gallery has to offer. In particular, we have ambitious plans to extend further our education programme and public events.

“To allow these plans to be implemented the National Gallery needs to introduce new working practices for some visitor-facing and security staff to enable the National Gallery to operate more flexibly. There will be no job cuts and terms and conditions will be protected.”

The gallery said it has appointed Securitas as its partner to manage some visitor-facing and security staff services.

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