National Gallery sacks union rep as fight against privatisation continues

Management at the National Gallery have sacked a union rep who has played a leading role in fighting privatisation – but that fight continues, with strike action and a demo in the next two weeks.

Candy Udwin

Management at the National Gallery have today sacked trade unionist Candy Udwin. The No Privatisation at the National Gallery campaign have made the following statement:

We’re extremely disappointed to have to announce that The National Gallery have sacked PCS Union rep Candy Udwin following her disciplinary hearing. This is an attack not only on Candy, but on the whole trade union movement, in line with the government’s attack on the right to strike.

When we spoke to Candy today she stressed that the fight continues, with a strike and a demo planned:

  • Strike action
    PCS National Gallery will be out on strike for one day on Wednesday 20 May, and then for 10 further days from Tuesday 26 May to Thursday 4 June
  • Demonstration
    Saturday 30 May in Trafalgar Square
Ken Loach supporting the campaign

Ken Loach supporting the campaign

The PCS views the case as one of victimisation, pointing out that Candy was suspended on the eve of the staff first taking strike action. They describe the sacking as “an attempt to undermine its campaign and make it easier for the gallery to push through these plans.”

National Gallery staff have taken a total of 23 days of strike action against the privatisation plans, which will affect 400 out of 600 staff, including those who ensure the security of the paintings and answer questions from the public. The campaign, which had continued for months, has won massive support, including from cultural figures like Ken Loach and Grayson Perry. As Polly Toynbee wrote in January, the National Gallery is the only national museum in London not paying the living wage. Staff working here from a commitment to making art accessible to people are to be transferred to a private sector firm interested only in profit – in the words of one staff member, “I came to work at the National Gallery, but I could be transferred to a supermarket car park.”

The behaviour of National Gallery management sums up everything the new Tory government stands for – low pay, attacks on unions and privatisation. But perhaps that’s no surprise if you look at the National Gallery’s board of trustees, where you find the former Chief Exec of Domino’s Pizza, a former Senior Audit Partner at KPMG and the founder of a hedge fund. An institution that should be making art accessible to all, with decent pay and conditions for committed staff, is being run by fat cats who can’t understand the lives of ordinary Londoners.

PCS have stated that the dispute and Candy’s case will be raised at the union’s annual conference that opens in Brighton on Tuesday.

Keep up to date with the campaign at its Facebook page.

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