National Gallery strike today!

PCS members on the picket line outside the National Gallery demanding no privatisation
PCS members on the picket line outside the National Gallery demanding no privatisation

NATIONAL Gallery staff are taking their 24th day of strike action today against the privatisation of the gallery.

Today begins eleven more days of strike action which continues on Tuesday 26th May until Thursday 4th June.

Their union PCS is holding a national rally in Trafalgar Square on May 30th to support members striking against privatisation and victimisation at the National Gallery.

Staff at the gallery have been told that their jobs and the work that they do, looking after the security of paintings and millions of visitors, are likely to be sold to a private company.

The signing of the contract for the preferred bidder is expected to be in August.

Sacked National Gallery union rep Candy Udwin received a standing ovation when she addressed the PCS unions Revenue and Customs Group in Brighton yesterday.

Udwin told the conference: ‘The management of the National Gallery has brought in CIS to do our jobs. They are a union-busting company. What could that money have been spent on?’

She added: ‘Help us make this a victory, so we can help the movement wipe the smile off David Cameron’s face.’

Dave Owens of the PCS DWP group executive committee told conference: ‘The election of the Tory government is a tectonic shift with 30,000 jobs likely to be cut at the Department for Work and Pensions, £12 billion slashed from the welfare budget and £13bn axed from government departmental spending.’

Speaking to motion A9 which praised the campaign by members at the DWP Garston Contact Centre in Liverpool to fight to keep their office open, Owens said that the scale of the pending cuts meant that the government would be ‘coming for your office next’.

Members at Garston took eight days of branch strike action plus two days of very well-supported national action as part of a campaign to fight the office closure, defend public services and oppose the government’s austerity agenda. The motion condemned management’s decision to force through the closure.

More than a 1,000 DWP jobs have been cut in Liverpool in the last decade and many members at Garston were only there because they had to move there when the DWP shut the Liverpool Pensions and Liverpool Call Centre sites.

For some staff closing Garston meant their second and in some cases third forced transfer because of cuts and office closures over the last 10 years.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh Revenue and Customs rep Gary Stein warned conference that staff are being forced to work in call centres without training.

He warned it was ‘haphazard at best and dangerous at worst, with no proper training given to staff’.

He warned: ‘We need to ensure members are only made to take phone calls with proper training.’