John McDonnell MP voices his disapproval of Privatisation of the National Gallery

John McDonnell said “I will be supporting the National Gallery staff in their campaign to protect their jobs and halt this privatisation. This will put at risk our national collection and lose us years of professional art expertise.”

The National Gallery is pressing ahead with privatisation plans. This will affect 400 of the 600 gallery staff including those who look after security of the paintings, deal with the public and requests for information about the collection, complaints, school bookings and more.

This comes after the union engaged in talks to avoid a damaging sell-off which the senior gallery managers walked away from before an agreement could be reached. PCS will be meeting at ACAS to attempt again to find a resolution to avoid an unnecessary dispute but otherwise will be taking five days of strike action starting on 3 February. PCS members voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, 94% voted for strikes on a 62% turnout.

The Gallery have also announced that they are awarding private security firm, CIS a contract for a year to run the Sainsbury’s wing of the National Gallery. This is a company that normally guard empty properties and whose staff are told that it is not their job to answer questions from the public about the paintings.

One of the Trustees is quoted by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian (20 January 2015) as saying CIS have been brought in to “give the staff a fright”. The cost of CIS for just 18 weeks during the recent Rembrandt exhibition was £490,000. PCS believes that this additional expenditure appears to be a gross misuse of public funds.

PCS is concerned that if tendering of all the visitor and security services goes ahead at the end of March it will threaten both the security of the collection and the quality of service provided to the public as well as the pay and conditions of the staff. It would be an unprecedented move as there are no other museums and galleries where all these services are provided by a private company.

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