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Workers Strike at London’s National Gallery, Shuttering Parts of the Museum

George Bellows, Men of the Docks, 1912, in the collection of the National Gallery.NATIONAL GALLERY

George Bellows, Men of the Docks, 1912, in the collection of the National Gallery.

NATIONAL GALLERY

Picket lines have appeared today outside of the National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square as part of an indefinite strike by about 200 members of the museum’s Public and Commercial Services union, the Associated Press reports. The museum has closed some of its rooms because of the labor shortage.

The latest action follows 56 days of strikes this year, which are aimed at scuttling a plan to privatize visitor and security service at the museum.

Although the museum has said that no jobs would be lost in this attempt to make operations more flexible and “deliver an enhanced service,” some 400 workers are expected to have their job privatized.

In a conversation with BBC Radio, union director Nick McCarthy said, “Millions of tourists won’t be able to get access to the vast majority of works of art in the gallery, and that’s enormously regrettable, but the blame for this lies with the gallery. We have sought to negotiate, but the gallery refuses to engage on this and seems hell bent on outsourcing this contract.”

The deputy director of the National Gallery told the BBC that the PCS was unable to suggest an alternative that would be effective or affordable.  “We need more flexibility to offer better service to our visitors,” she said. “We have nearly 6.5 million visitors a year and we want to offer more access, better access and events and activities to as many people as possible.”

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