Workers at the National Gallery in London walked out for two hours today (Thursday) to demand that the gallery hires more staff. Around 40 workers in the PCS union picketed the gallery and held a noisy protest.
The government has imposed a 15 percent funding cut to the gallery, leading it to cut staffing levels. Gallery assistants are now in such short supply that public galleries, which are free to enter, are often closed.
Staff are instead allocated to the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition—which people need to pay £16 each to enter.
Graham Eve, PCS branch secretary at the gallery, spoke to Socialist Worker about the effects of the cuts. “We used to gave a warden in every room,” he said.
“Now each warden has to patrol two. Virtually every day the Leonardo exhibition has been kept open while other rooms are closed.”
Another gallery worker said, “They’re reducing staff—and that puts us and the paintings at risk. This is about trying to protect our jobs. They’re enforcing these cuts on us, not on themselves.”
Strikers also raised the issue of the wider battle for public sector pensions. A petition calling on the TUC not to give up the fight got a good reception.
Candy Udwin, one of the strikers, said that the 30 November strikes had been “fantastic”. She added, “We need to take more action if we’re going to defeat the government.”
Similar walkouts are planning in the coming weeks, with workers set to strike again on 28 January, 2 February and 4 February.
Send messages of protest to gallery director Nicholas Penny at www.pcs.org.uk/gallery