Workers at the National Gallery in central London completed their 23rd strike day on Friday of last week and warned bosses they could face more walkouts.
The workers are fighting plans to privatise 400 out of 600 jobs and attacks on trade union rights. The PCS union members have voted for more action if the privatisation plans are not stopped—and if their victimised union rep Candy Udwin is dismissed.
Bosses suspended Candy on the eve of the workers’ first five-day walkout in January. Her disciplinary hearing is set to take place on Tuesday of next week. Workers are organising a protest on the day of the hearing outside the gallery from 9-10am.
The union has said it will back whatever action the workers decide to take. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told Socialist Worker, “Remarkable solidarity has been shown—and the strikers have been getting stronger with each day.
“They are determined to stop the privatisation and determined to get justice for Candy. And if the privatisation is not stopped and if Candy is dismissed, we are ready to take whatever action our members decide to do.”
The union has also announced it will organise a national demonstration to support the workers for Saturday 30 May on the gallery’s doorstep in Trafalgar Square.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “It’s good that the union is fully behind us. But now we need to step up the action and also get back out around the country to do more of the speaking tours.”
Strikers marched alongside striking council workers and other trade unionists and activists on London’s May Day march and rally in Trafalgar Square.
They made 1,000 sunflowers to hand out to May Day marchers, symbolising Vincent Van Gogh’s famous paintings of sunflowers, one of which is held by the gallery. These were then held up when Candy addressed the rally.
She told the crowd, “We want to send a message that our museums and galleries, our arts and culture, they should be free for all—not just playgrounds for the rich.”
Labour put out a statement last month saying it was “concerned” by the dispute and urged bosses to meet with the union for talks.
Ed Miliband said if Labour is elected it will continue free access to national galleries and museums.
But he has not come out in opposition to the National Gallery’s privatisation plans or for the reinstatement of Candy.
The union should not wait and rely on Labour to act—only a sustained programme of walkouts can beat privatisation.
Candy told the rally, “I’ll send a message to the gallery—if they insist on privatising us and attacking our union then we will escalate the strike action we have taken already.
“Your support has been fantastic—it can give everybody heart. It shows that people around this country want to see an alternative to austerity. They want to see people standing up.”