On the Picket Line

London art gallery workers strike against job cuts

By Jonathan Silberman
September 14, 2020

LONDON — Bookstore and cafeteria workers at the Tate and Tate Modern galleries are on strike against company plans to cut 313 jobs out of 600. The bosses cite declining revenue as visitor numbers fell during the coronavirus restrictions. “Union membership has doubled over the lockdown period,” senior Public and Commercial Services union representative Cristina Petrella told the Militant. “More and more workers recognize that union action is our only defense.”

Tate strikers joined a protest Aug. 28 of 200 called by the PCS and Unite unions at the neighboring South Bank Centre housing the National Theatre, Festival Hall and Hayward Gallery. South Bank Centre bosses announced 400 jobs, 70%, are to be cut. “Workers across the board are being hit, from ushers to cafeteria workers to librarians” PCS chair Paul Valentine told the Militant. “This week we’re balloting for strike action too.”

The protest heard talks from union and cultural figures. Poet and Unite union representative Chris McCabe, a worker for 18 years in the poetry library at the Festival Hall, read his poem “The Bottom Line,” blasting the “monetization of culture.” The people making the job cuts “have no poetry in them” he said.