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Posted on 3 February 2015 at 10:31 GMT

Labour and trade union movement news

National Gallery strike, London, 3.1.15, photo by Rob Williams

National Gallery strike, London, 3.1.15, photo by Rob Williams   (Click to enlarge)

Solid start to National Gallery five-day strike

Text from a PCS media release; photos from Socialist Party

PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh at the National Gallery picket, 3.2.15, photo Rob Williams

PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh at the National Gallery picket, 3.2.15, photo Rob Williams   (Click to enlarge)

Workers at the National Gallery are striking for five days from 3rd February over plans to hand all visitor services to a private company. The well supported stoppage is putting the spotlight on a sell-off that threatens the reputation of the country's second most visited major attraction.

In a "disproportionate act of unfathomable bad faith" the gallery yesterday (2nd February) suspended one of the union's senior reps who is a member of the negotiating team that was in talks at Acas on Friday. The rep is accused of breaching commercial confidentiality by sharing a document with her full time union official - which included information about the costs of using a private company - and asking him to take up the matter with gallery management.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, speaking to National Gallery pickets, 3.2.15, photo by Rob Williams

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, speaking to National Gallery pickets, 3.2.15, photo by Rob Williams   (Click to enlarge)

The union, which remains committed to talks at Acas, believes its reps have a legitimate right to ask officials to raise these questions on what is a matter of strong public interest. Gallery bosses announced plans last year to privatise almost all staff, including those who look after the paintings and help the gallery's six million annual visitors.

They have also reneged on a promise to introduce the London living wage, meaning the institution is the only major museum or gallery in the capital that does not pay it.

Private security firm CIS has taken over the whole of the Sainsbury wing - which houses masterpieces by Raphael, Botticelli and Fra Angelico - for the rest of this year without any competitive tender or consultation. The company was brought in to cover the gallery's Rembrandt exhibition last autumn. Its promotional brochure advertises its services as guarding empty buildings, door security and CCTV monitoring.

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