London

National Gallery staff go on indefinite strike

Employees of the National Gallery protest against privatisation Image copyright EPA
Image caption Members of the Public and Commercial Services union are taking part in the industrial action

Workers at the National Gallery are going on indefinite strike in a dispute over privatisation.

About 200 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union began the ongoing industrial action on Tuesday.

The gallery said as much of the venue as possible would stay open but access to some areas would be limited.

There have been 56 days of strikes at the gallery since February, including a 10-day strike in May.

The industrial action follows privatisation plans which the gallery said would enable it to introduce a new roster to "operate more flexibly and deliver an enhanced service".

'Unnecessary privatisation'

The PCS said the action was against plans to privatise 400 visitor services roles and the dismissal of union rep Candy Udwin, who was accused of sharing information about the use of a private security firm.

Speaking to BBC London 94.9, 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.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The National Gallery said access to some areas would be limited

"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."

There will be a picket line outside the gallery in Trafalgar Square.

In a statement, the National Gallery said it had appointed Securitas as its partner to manage some visitor and security services.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Union members set up a picket line outside the gallery in Trafalgar Square

There will be no job cuts and terms and conditions will be protected, the gallery added.

Susan Foister, deputy director of the National Gallery, said the PCS were unable to provide the gallery with an effective and affordable solution.

She said: "We need more flexibility to offer better service to our visitors, we have nearly 6.5 million visitors a year and we want to offer more access, better access and events and activities to as many people as possible."

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