NEWS
19/01/2012 02:36 GMT | Updated 14/12/2012 11:32 GMT

Strikes Hit Leonardo Da Vinci Exhibition At National Gallery

Workers at London's National Gallery, home to the blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci art exhibition, will go on strike today in a row over jobs.

As previously reported on HuffPost UK Culture, a row over staffing levels will threaten to disrupt London's biggest art show for decades as wardens stage a two-hour walkout.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union are caiming that staff cuts mean they are no longer able to do their jobs properly.

Officials said the Government axed 15% from the gallery's budget as part of its spending review in October 2010, amounting to £4 million for the period up to 2014/15, £1.5 million through staffing.

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."

A Gallery spokesman said: "The National Gallery will endeavour to keep as many gallery rooms open as possible, prioritising the Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan exhibition to fulfil its obligation to people who already have tickets for that day.

"The proposed strikes are about invigilation methods. The National Gallery has increased the number of rooms in which a gallery assistant invigilates to two rooms rather than one. This is not unusual or controversial in the museum and gallery field.

"Quite the contrary, the majority of galleries within London, throughout the UK, across Europe and far beyond all employ similar systems. The change has been made because the National Gallery and others believe this to be a more effective and reliable means of invigilation and it has been implemented with the full approval of the current national security adviser. The security of the collection is of paramount concern to the National Gallery."

Staff will strike between 1pm and 3pm today and between 4pm and 6pm on January 28, with further industrial action threatened next month.

In February 2010 strikes over low pay led to the closure of five of the The National Gallery's 66 exhibition rooms as works campaigned just outside the gallery’s entrance in Trafalgar Square.