Socialist Worker

National Gallery strikers celebrate step forward in fight to reinstate sacked union rep Candy Udwin

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2457

Workers hold the Reinstate Candy–Congrats Phil Turner! banner

Workers hold the 'Reinstate Candy–Congrats Phil Turner!' banner (Pic: Socialist Worker )


The fight to get sacked PCS union rep Candy Udwin reinstated won an important ruling yesterday, Wednesday, which shows the strength of her case.

An employment tribunal judge has granted Candy interim relief. 

This means that National Gallery bosses, who sacked Candy last month, must continue to pay her until her full unfair dismissal hearing.

Candy had been a leading PCS rep at the central London gallery before bosses suspended her ahead of a strike against privatisation in January. 

The judge found it likely that a full tribunal would rule it was unreasonable for bosses to accuse Candy of gross misconduct. And that she had been acting legitimately as a trade union rep.

National Gallery workers began their 35th strike day today. They celebrated the news at a lunchtime strike rally.

Candy told the rally the judge had made the ruling based on what she believed would be the findings of a full tribunal.

Candy said, “The judge said that I did what any employee might do – particularly a trade union representative. She said that it was not reasonable to have decided that it was gross misconduct.

“She said that it was not activity cloaked as trade union activity – it was trade union activity. You can’t get clearer than that”.

Candy added, “That gives the gallery a bit of a problem. My appeal is on 2 July – the gallery director Nicholas Penny will be on the panel. 

“They’ll have to decide whether they want to ignore the findings of an employment tribunal judge”.

Candy also congratulated NUJ union rep Phil Turner, who won his own battle against victimisation yesterday. She said, “This government has given the green light to take on trade union reps”.

And gallery strikers unveiled a new banner that read, “Reinstate Candy – congrats Phil Turner!”

Publicly

Prospective Labour Party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the rally. He said, “I’m here to support Candy. She, on behalf of everyone, is standing up for a publicly owned gallery.

“Standing out here with Candy against privatisation is not easy. But you’ve got the support of lots of people because of that. 

“That’s why you’re going to win”.

Left wing Labour MP John McDonnell also spoke. He said, “This dispute has become a key case. Everywhere I speak at a meeting, people ask how they can give support.

“Even some Tory MPs are getting a bit edgy that this dispute has started to discredit parts of the establishment”.

He added, “At a time when people are a bit down after the general election, they look to this dispute and gain strength”.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett also spoke.

The strike has received international support. One of the gallery strikers spoke at the French CGT union culture sector conference.

She told the rally, “On the wall in massive letters were the words, ‘No privatisation at the National Gallery – reinstate Candy”.

And Candy’s supporters protested inside the gallery’s Sainsbury wing on Friday of last week. Bosses closed the entrance to the Sainsbury wing today fearing protesters would return.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said in a statement, “This is great news for Candy who has faced months of anguish and uncertainty about her future.

“The gallery should now see sense and reinstate Candy immediately”.

And PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh told the rally, “This campaign will continue until we’ve secured Candy's reinstatement” 

Candy’s full employment tribunal is set to take place in October of this year.

Gallery workers voted for ten more days of strikes last week. The dates are yet to be announced.


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