Earlier today PCS Union General Secretary Mark Serwotka has written about the long running dispute at the National Gallery which has culminated in the dismissal of PCS rep Candy Udwin on the Peoples Assembly website. PCS does have questions to answer on the support it offers to victimised reps but here I entirely and unreservedly endorse PCS’s stance as set out by Serwotka. Please consider showing your support.
By Mark Serwotka
PCS is in dispute with the National Gallery over their proposals to privatise 400 of the 600 staff who work there. The first act of the National Gallery management, following the election is to sack one of our senior reps. This is a direct attack on our union and we will fight it every step of the way.
Our members there have already taken 23 days of strike action this year and a fresh wave of action will now be held. On Saturday 30 May we will hold a demonstration against the privatisation plan on the institution’s doorstep in Trafalgar Square in London. We already have some excellent speakers lined up and will be using our annual conference to help mobilise support for it.
Let’s look at the facts. Candy Udwin has been a PCS rep at the gallery for many years and has fulfilled her role brilliantly, standing up for her colleagues and holding the senior managers to account.
When the plans to sell off all the gallery’s visitor services were announced – something no other major museum or gallery has ever done – she was at the forefront of our opposition and, when the dispute reached Acas, was part of our negotiating team.
The first Acas meeting was held on Friday 30 January and our first strike was scheduled to start four days’ later. On the Monday, Candy was called in and told she had been suspended from work, a move that the gallery tried to claim also meant she could longer participate in the talks.
The ‘case’ against her was that she shared information about the use of a private security firm with her full time union official and asked him to take up the matter with the gallery. If that is not a bona fide thing for a trade union rep to do – and sacking her on the eve of a strike for doing it is not victimisation – then I don’t know what is.
No union rep worth their salt ever stood for election because they thought it would be good for their career. But to be victimised by your employer on that basis is a gross abuse of power.
We want everyone who opposes this unnecessary and damaging sell-off, and who supports the right of elected trade union representatives to raise questions on matters of strong public interest, to join the protest. This will also be an opportunity to protest against the kind of Tory cuts being cited as the reason for this privatisation, and against attacks on trade unions.
Tens of thousands signed our petition against the proposals, almost 10,000 people added their names to a statement calling for Candy to be reinstated and artists Grayson Perry, Mark Wallinger, Ryan Gander and Peter Kennard have signed a separate letter calling for a halt to the privatisation.
We have massive public support and we are determined to win. With your help I believe we can.
Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union
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