National Gallery staff start indefinite strike
MEMBERS of the PCS civil service union at the National Gallery began an indefinite strike last week to coincide with the first day in charge of the gallery by new director Gabriele Finaldi.
The walk-out follows a series of strikes totalling 50 days of action since last February in a battle against privatisation.
The union remains opposed to the privatisation of all the gallery's visitor services and is fighting for the reinstatement of its senior representative Candy Udwin, who an interim tribunal has found was likely to have been sacked unlawfully for trade union activity in relation to the dispute.
The action is being escalated because the gallery has brought forward the announcement of the appointment of private security firm Securitas to manage the visitor-facing and security services on a five-year contract reportedly worth £40 million.
About 300 gallery assistants who guard paintings and help visitors will be affected. They will no longer be employed by the gallery and will instead work for Securitas.
There will be a picket line outside the gallery in Trafalgar Square between 9am and 11am every day, and Friday from 5pm to 6.30pm.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Mr Finaldi has known about this dispute for a long time, but now he is in post we repeat our request for genuine negotiations to resolve it.
"This privatisation is not only unnecessary; we believe it risks the gallery's global reputation as one of our country's greatest cultural assets."
Nick McCarthy, the union's director of campaigns and communications, said: "We have no alternative but to go on strike, the privatisation is completely unnecessary.
"Today's strike is indefinite until such time as we are able to reach a solution with the gallery.
"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."
Bromley bin dispute escalates
RESIDENTS of the London Borough of Bromley face the prospect of stinking dustbins from uncollected rubbish as about 100 refuse collection staff employed by waste disposal giant Veolia gear up for three days of strike action in a pay dispute.
About 100 workers, members of the giant union Unite voted 85 per cent in favour of striking on 24th August and 3rd and 4th September, after years of below inflation pay awards. The strikes will run from midnight to midnight.
Veolia was awarded the contract by Bromley council and Unite said that this dispute was another example of the flawed nature of the controversial authority’s mass privatisation programme which relies on cutting services and slashing wages.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Employers have offered 1.5 per cent for the pay year starting last April – and we put in for a four per cent pay rise.
“Workers are angry, as they have to cover heavier and heavier workloads following a number of rounds being cut.
“For years they have had below inflation pay rises – but now that inflation has dropped, the employers are happy to use it as a bench mark so it’s a catch-and-match up claim.
“Our members have made it very clear that they are prepared to strike – we held three consultative votes, all of which voted to be balloted for strike action.
“Veolia should have got the message -- but it clearly hasn’t. That is why we have now issued notice for strike action. This is a very unhappy and demoralised workforce, being asked to take on more work but not being recognised for it.
“Veolia has a final chance for talks – we urge them to take that opportunity. The alternative is for the strike to go-ahead with the prospect of uncollected dustbins causing a stink in the late summer sunshine.
“The collection service will be a day behind initially and the further two days of action will hamper efforts to catch up and cause the service to householders to lag further behind.
“This dispute is another example of the council’s misguided privatisation programme which relies on Veolia cutting collection rounds for householders and real term pay cuts for our refuse collection members.”
The Conservative-dominated council is fully committed to becoming a commissioning council and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 – despite having £130 million in reserves.