National Gallery strikers and 2,000 of their supporters delivered a message to bosses yesterday, Saturday. “We are not going away.”
People from around Britain joined the rally on the gallery’s doorstep in Trafalgar Square, central London. It was organised by the PCS union against bosses’ privatisation plans and the sacking of leading union rep Candy Udwin.
Workers say the turnout has made them even more determined to fight–and they refuse to let bosses’ threats of disciplinary action stop them speaking out.
One told Socialist Worker, “It is really fantastic. The dispute has been a hard struggle but to see so many people come out has given me hope that we can win.”
It was the workers’ 29th strike day this year against plans to privatise 400 out of 600 jobs.
Bosses sacked Candy days after the general election, hoping workers would be cowed. But workers called a 10 day strike and have vowed to do whatever it takes to beat privatisation and get Candy reinstated.
Graham, PCS branch secretary at the National Gallery, told the crowd in Trafalgar Square, “It’s been a long struggle but one thing is clear–we’re going to keep going until we win.
“It’s not just for us–it’s about all of you who care about a decent society.
“We must get Candy back in that building and we will do it whatever it takes. Whether it takes a week, two years or three years, we will do it.”
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka added that the union would support the strikers in whatever action they decided to take.
“This strike is absolutely critical. Our union will continue to support this strike in every way possible until our members believe they have got an acceptable settlement.
“We don’t just want the end of privatisation. We want Candy leading us back into work and striking a blow against the anti-union employers.”
NUT union general secretary Christine Blower and Unite union assistant general secretary Steve Turner also pledged support for the strikers and Candy. Incoming CWU union general secretary Dave Ward also sent a message of support.
Speakers also included filmmaker Ken Loach, Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger, former victimised health worker Charlotte Monro, and London Met university and Barnet council strikers.
Candy addressed the rally to loud cheers. She explained that resistance was needed to fight the Tories’ attacks on trade unions.
She said, “We’re not going to let them bully us. By sacking me we’re not going to let them silence us.
“We have got to turn the tide–this government is coming for us.
“But they are scared of us. So if they are scared of our protests, we need more protests and if they are scared of our strikes then we need more strikes.”
Bosses are trying to claim the strike has no public support. But at the end of the rally supporters descended on the gallery’s lobby chanting “Reinstate Candy Udwin” and then staged a sit down protest outside.
The strike is set to continue until this Thursday. Workers will be holding picket lines from 9am every morning and are urging supporters to visit.