Workers at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London are mounting a campaign to save their jobs after the announcement of 19 potential redundancies. Arjun Mahadevan reports.
On Thursday 15 January, gallery assistants (GAs) at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London were notified that each of their jobs would be at risk of redundancy. Of the 36 GAs that exist, management have announced 19 potential job cuts and drastic contract changes to those left. Although these changes include an increase to the London Living Wage, due to the introduction of annualised hours they will earn less over the year than they do currently. To replace the 19 workers who will be laid off, the gallery will be bringing in apprentices (who may be paid as low as £2.73/h) and casual workers who will have none of their predecessors’ employment benefits or control over their working hours.
The news was greeted with shock and anger from the workers, who have launched a Facebook page, Twitter and petition encouraging people to support the campaign to save their jobs and have put out this statement. Dulwich Picture Gallery have shown no remorse, insisting these redundancies are necessary to ‘operate more efficiently and control costs’. Despite this, the gallery seems to be comfortably sitting on a substantial endowment fund.
DPG Deputy Director, Andrew MacDonald was appointed by Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Simon Freakley, to oversee financial cuts at the gallery, targeting workers pay and jobs, and scrapping the gallery’s education programme in order to increase profits. Freakley is also CEO of Zolfo Cooper, an asset stripping firm generating an annual turnover of over £1 billion. His ruthlessness was shown when he was part of the group that took administration of Clinton Cards in 2012. A week later 380 branches had been closed and thousands of jobs lost.
Many of the staff at the gallery are also practicing artists. Their GA jobs are often the only source of stable income in a city where the cost of living is rapidly rising. Redundancy would make it even harder for many of these people to keep creating artworks, pay studio rents and buy materials, pushing more talented artists out of London, following the Tories mission to turn the capital into the preserve of the rich.
The GAs at the Dulwich Picture Gallery remain defiant, and will continue to fight the proposals in whichever ways they can. Send messages of support to the campaign’s Facebook – facebook.com/SaveJobsAtDPG and Twitter – @SaveJobsAtDPG