A lively picket line of striking gallery assistants on Friday 27 July was bolstered by Unison and Unite reps from nearby workplaces, as well as activists from the nearby National Portrait Gallery and both Tate Galleries.
Bemused Olympic tourists, armed police, and soldiers looked on as workers leafleted and chatted with the public, explaining the reasons for the dispute.
Timed to coincide with the opening day of the Olympics, it is hoped these “mini-strikes” will have the desired effect of causing maximum disruption during the peak hours of the museum’s own cultural Olympiad, drawing attention to the plight of these over-worked, underpaid public sector workers and concentrating management’s mind on the need to negotiate on staff numbers.
In conversations with these striking culture workers, who are members of the Public and Commercial Service union (PCS), it becomes apparent that the staffing levels and the imposition of extra security duties are far from being the only grievances. One picket cited the outstanding issue of historically low pay, compounded by the increase in pension contributions. He believed that if these issues were linked to staffing levels it could galvanize the workforce into greater shows of strength.
A further walkout was staged the following evening, Saturday 28 July, and gallery bosses have already offered temporary staff a full day’s pay to cover for just 2 hours. More actions are scheduled for 4 and 11 August. Please send messages of solidarity to email@example.com