Workers at the National Gallery in central London began the latest stage of their battle against plans to privatise 400 out of 600 jobs last weekend.
They struck on Saturday and Sunday, and are set to walk out again for five days from Tuesday of next week.
The Sainsbury wing of the gallery has already been handed over to private security firm CIS. Gallery bosses don’t pay workers the London Living Wage, but the CIS staff are on £10 an hour during the strike.
One striker said, “It’s a slap in the face. I saw visitors who don’t have English as their first language asking for help, but the CIS security staff just shrugged. Many of us can speak more than one language and could’ve helped. It’s very frustrating.
“But at the same time the CIS staff are not getting the benefits of being in a union.”
The strike has attracted support from across Britain. Last week strikers received their largest donation yet—£1,000 from the Communication Workers Union.
Students and workers at the Cortauld Institute of Art in central London are the latest to pledge their support.
Support is also growing for suspended PCS union rep Candy Udwin. Bosses hoped that taking action against her before the first walkout in January would undermine the strike. But Candy has joined strikers on the picket lines. She also spoke about the effects privatisation will have at the TUC union federation’s south east region’s culture conference last Saturday.
The vindictive move by bosses has only made workers more determined to resist.
“There is a lot of solidarity among us in the union,” said a striker, “and a lot of public support too, which encourages us.”
Workers are organising to go on speaking tours during their strike. They urge trade unionists and campaigners to book them in to speak.
They have called a national day of action on Thursday of next week.
Gallery bosses infuriated workers by informing PCS that they will stop taking part in talks at government conciliation service Acas.
“We need more strikes if this is not resolved,” said a worker. “It is a constant fight. Why won’t they just let us get on with our jobs?”
Workers at Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London showed it’s possible to beat the bosses this week.
A planned seven-day strike forced Gallery bosses to withdraw plans to make 19 out of 36 gallery assistants redundant.
HOW TO HELP
Invite speakers from the dispute into your union branch or campaign meeting. Email [email protected]
Donate to the strike fund: Sort code 086001 Account no 20169002 or cheques to Culture Sector Hardship Fund, c/o PCS North West Region, Jack Jones House, 1 Islington, Liverpool L3 8EG.
Ask your MP to support the campaign and back Early Day Motion 300 bit.ly/1Jn6AtA
Sign and share the petition and statement bit.ly/1kELiGx
Download #ReinstateCandy poster bit.ly/reinstatecandy