London

National Gallery staff begin five-day walk-out

Demonstration outside the National Gallery Image copyright PA
Image caption The strike was called by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union

Staff at the National Gallery in London have begun a five-day strike in a row over the privatisation of services.

The walk-out, over plans to hand visitor services to a private company, will run until 7 February.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union mounted a picket line outside the gallery in protest at plans to switch visitor services to a commercial provider.

The union's members voted by more than nine to one for industrial action.

'Reckless'

Talks were held at the conciliation service Acas but ended without agreement.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The sell-off plan is reckless and risks damaging the worldwide reputation of what is one of the UK's greatest cultural assets, and we are determined to stop it."

Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, said for the gallery to continue to thrive as a public entity change was "essential".

He said: "The proposed changes are necessary to enable the National Gallery to increase income in the face of a reduced grant and increasing maintenance and running costs, and to enable it to pay all staff a minimum of the London living wage."

About 250 workers are involved in the row, but the gallery is expected to remain open throughout the industrial action.

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