National Gallery forced to close rooms as warders walk out over proposed holiday cuts

World renowned art treasures at the National Gallery faced the threat of being closed to the public today after 140 warders walked out over proposed changes to their terms and conditions.

The gallery anticipated having to close some rooms and to cancel guided tours and talks planned for today. However, the headline Velazquez exhibiton remained unaffected by the action.

The one-day strike, called by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) follows the success of its first walkout on 11 July.

The PCS claimed staff were angry about the gallery plans to impose changes to terms and conditions that include the withdrawal of the extra three days holiday that staff receive in recognition for working Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day when the holiday falls on a weekend.

The gallery is replacing this entitlement with two days unpaid special leave and a one-off payment of £100, the union said.

The PCS said the warders were among the lowest paid in the culture sector, earning as little as £13,500 a year with many earning a basic rate of pay of just over £6 an hour.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS, said: “Management’s decision to withdraw the entitlements that staff working over Christmas receive runs contrary to other sectors in the economy. Management need to step back from such a blatant attack on staff’s terms and conditions and negotiate meaningfully with the union to reach a suitable agreement.”

A spokesman for the gallery said: “We very much regret the decision reached by gallery assistants, who are members of the Public and Commercial Services Union, to take industrial action following a ballot.

“The gallery hopes that a resolution can still be found. The management will do all it can to keep disruption to the public to a minimum.”

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