PCS strikers break Da Vinci code at National Gallery

by - 19th January 2012, 7.00 GMT

Poussin's Adoration of the Golden Calf, vandalised in a room without an assistant


Workers at a major London gallery currently hosting an exhibition by Leonardo Da Vinci are today on strike over staff cuts that mean they are no longer able to do their jobs properly.

There used to be one gallery assistant per room at all times but this is no longer the case as staff who leave are not being replaced.

The government axed 15% from the gallery’s budget as part of George Osborne’s spending review in October 2010 – the cut amounts to about £4 million for the period up to 2014/15, £1.5 million through staffing.

Last summer Nicolas Poussin’s Adoration of the golden calf was vandalised in a room without an assistant. The union, which represents almost 90% of the 200 gallery assistants, believes it would not have happened had a member of staff been there at all times.

Some of the permanent public galleries have been closed during the current sold-out Da Vinci exhibition to ensure the necessary security demanded by the insurers, the union believes.

Staff will walk out between 1pm and 3pm today and between 4pm and 6pm on Saturday 28 January. More strikes are possible in February if staffing levels are not reviewed.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “As well as hosting high profile exhibitions like Da Vinci, the gallery is home to some incredibly valuable works of art, not just in monetary terms but in their contribution to culture and our society.

“But instead of investing in the arts, and the people who look after them, the government has imposed massive spending cuts on our museums and galleries to pay for an economic crisis caused by bankers, and we are now seeing the impact of this on the National Gallery and elsewhere.”