National Gallery staff resume strike over low pay

National Gallery staff will resume their strike today, walking out for two hours in a dispute over low pay.

The gallery workers walked out yesterday for two hours forcing all but five of the gallery’s 66 rooms to shut, the Guardian has reported.

Lizzie Woods, an organiser at the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), said: “It’s an absolute scandal that the National Gallery spent £50m on one painting by Titian last year when our members are having to take second jobs to reach a decent living wage.”

With the majority of warders on less than £15,000 a year, most have to rely on overtime and weekend working to top up their basic pay.

The strike came after the gallery imposed a pay offer that union members had previously rejected in a vote. Gallery attendants were offered rises of between 2.52% and 3.79% – but still leaving managers “receiving an unfair proportion” of the budget available for salaries, said Woods.

Nicholas Penny, director of the gallery, expressed his “sympathy with the lowest-paid employees” but he said the low pay was due to “restraints that can only be altered at a political level”, referring to the National Gallery’s quango status.

The gallery workers also took strike action last Tuesday for two hours, which resulted in the closure of 53 of the 66 gallery rooms and the cancellation of the 11:30am tour of the gallery.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said: “The people who mind the nation’s masterpieces are sick and tired of having to work 50 to 60 hours a week and take second jobs to scrape together enough to pay for housing costs, bills and food. It’s time that the National Gallery recognised that loyal staff deserve a London living wage.”

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