Socialist Worker

Solidarity helps striking National Gallery workers defy bosses’ pay blackmail

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2469

Strikers from Welsh and Scottish museums and the DVLA joined the picket line

Strikers at the National Gallery showed solidarity with workers on strike at Welsh and Scottish museums (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Strikers at the National Gallery in central London have defied bosses’ attempts to bully them back to work.

The members of the PCS union began an all-out strike last month following the outsourcing of some 300 jobs to private firm Securitas.

Strikers are fighting to secure their terms and conditions before Securitas takes over in November.

When strikers received their wage slips last week they found bosses had docked their pay for the whole of the month.

But gallery managers had originally said strikers’ pay would only be deducted from the week that the strike began in mid-August.

The gallery’s head of human resources sent a letter to all strikers offering them an advance loan of one week’s wages if they returned to work.

The desperate move came as negotiations between the PCS and gallery director Gabriele Finaldi continue.

Strikers were able to use their strike fund to help them beat the bosses’ blackmail—thanks to donations from supporters across Britain.

The bosses’ pressure has only made them more determined to fight.

One striker told Socialist Worker, “They did that with our pay to piss us off. But they don’t seem to realise that the more they piss us off, the more we want to fight.”

Support 

And victimised PCS union rep Candy Udwin told a picket line, “Because of the amazing support from people all over the country, whatever the gallery throw at us, we’re able to throw back at them.

“Our message is we’re staying out until we win. We’re not going to be bullied back to work.”

The fact that the strike fund was strong enough to help defy the bosses shows there is widespread support for the walkout.

So does an online petition of more than 130,000 signatures against the privatisation. Strikers were set to hand copies of the petition to Finaldi and culture minister Ed Vaizey on Thursday of this week.

Management’s ploy also shows why the strikers will need continued donations to the fund to help them fight on.

And it’s also important to link the fight at the National Gallery with other disputes.

Gallery workers visited striking rail workers from First Great Western at London’s Paddington station after their picket line last Saturday.

And they sent messages of support to striking PCS members at the National Museum Wales, the National Museums Scotland and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.  They were all out on the same day.

This points to the potential for united action.

PCS culture sector president Clara Paillard told strikers last Saturday, “In Scotland they’ve been inspired by the National Gallery dispute and took seven days’ action. 

“In Wales because they’ve been inspired by you they’ve decided to go for more.

“Today all sites are out together. But we need more people to come out together. 

“This is not just about the National Gallery, National Museums Scotland or National Museum Wales. This is about austerity.”


Support this crucial strike

Donate to the strike fund—Sort code 08 60 01, 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 online petition at bit.ly/1kELiGx

Join the strikers to hand in the petition this Thursday from 1pm outside the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, central London

Go to the picket lines, every day 9am-11am


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