National Gallery bosses have been forced to say they will pay staff the London Living Wage. The gallery was the only national museum or gallery in London not to pay it.
The news came as workers began six days of strikes from Monday to Friday of this week and on Monday of next week. They have already struck for 18 days this year.
This is a victory for the workers—and has helped boost morale. Bosses want to privatise 400 out of 600 jobs at the gallery. They have been refusing to discuss alternatives with the workers’ PCS union in the hope of dragging out the dispute. But they have only made workers’ even angrier.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “We are determined to see this through. The longer it goes on the stronger the belief is to continue.”
On Monday’s picket line a supporter told strikers they had cancelled their membership at the gallery in disgust at the attacks on workers.
“It’s fantastic that it has reached wider into people’s consciousness,” said a striker.
“Gallery membership is quite new and so for people to be cancelling already shows how angry people are—it will hit management hard.”
Bosses plan to put services out to tender just two days before the general election. PCS is calling for a moratorium to halt the plans.
It has also launched an open letter for supporters to sign to tell gallery director Nicholas Penny to delay the plans.
Workers say that if the privatisation plans are not halted there will be an escalation of strikes after the election.
On Friday of this week they are organising a national day of collections for the strike fund. They are also urging people to invite strikers to union and activist meetings.
And the strikers are planning a social in London on Friday of this week as a thank you for the solidarity they have received in their fight so far.
A striker told Socialist Worker, “The solidarity has been fantastic. Anyone I speak to is really positive about action being taken in the run up to the election.”
Sandy Nicoll, branch secretary of Unison at Soas university in nearby central London, visited workers on their picket on Monday.
He said workers and students there would be holding a mass collection for the strike on Friday.
He said, “Your battle is a really important one. Ahead of the election it puts all the politicians on the spot.”
The victory over the London Living Wage has to be built on. Bosses have not yet guaranteed it for new starters, so the pressure needs to be kept up.
Momentum has to be sustained to beat back the privatisation plans—and win the reinstatement of suspended union rep Candy Udwin.
Visit picket lines 20-24 April and 1 May from 9am
Take part in the national collection day on Friday of this week or donate to sort code 08/60/01 and account no: 20169002 Cheques to PCS Culture Media and Sport Association, c/o PCS North West Region, Jack Jones House,1 Islington, Liverpool L3 8EG.
Sign the open letter action.pcs.org.uk/page/speakout/open-letter-to-the-director-of-the-national-gallery
Visit the social on Fri 24 April 6pm, Temple Bar,
Information on inviting strikers to speak ngnotforsale.wordpress.com