A previous protest organised by PCS against National Gallery privatisation. Image: PSC/Andrew Aitchson

More than 2,000 people march against museum and gallery cuts

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 04.11.2016
Anti-austerity demo took place on 5 November
More than 2,000 people came together to march against local government cuts to museums, galleries and libraries in London last weekend.

The demo, which was organised by the Unite union in collaboration with Unison and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), started outside the British Library in central London and marched to the National Gallery, ending in a rally in Trafalgar Square.

A number of writers, culture professionals and politicians spoke at the rally, including the author Michael Rosen and Sara Wajid, the senior public programmes manager at Royal Museums Greenwich and the Museums Association's (MA) London rep.

Organisers said the march came in response to “a national crisis threatening the future of the nation’s public libraries, museums and galleries”.

They highlighted figures from last year’s MA Cuts Survey showing a 24% decrease in staff numbers, and 18% of respondents saying that part of their museum had close to the public in the past year.

The unions also wanted to challenge the increasing commercialisation and privatisation of cultural services. PCS said: “As well as cutting jobs and pay, many museum and gallery visitor services are being privatised, as organisations look to short-term measures to cut costs, including at the National Gallery in London, sparking a long-running, high profile strike last year. The unions say the profit motive has no place in the running of our cultural institutions."

Mark Serwotka, PCS’s general secretary, said: “Given the clear benefits arts and culture bring to our society and our economy, cuts to libraries, museums and galleries represent everything wrong with the Tories' approach to public spending.
“While institutions are closing, privatising services or charging for access, the staff who guard our nation's cultural treasures are languishing on low pay and insecure contracts."

A spokeswoman from PCS said the march organisers were planning to organise similar marches in other parts of the UK in the near future.

Meanwhile the Scottish launch of the anti-austerity campaign, Show Culture Some Love, took place earlier this week at the Glasgow School of Art.

Timed to coincide with the Museums Association Annual Conference & Exhibition, the union-led campaign aims to bring together cultural professionals and arts supporters to protest against cuts to culture.


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09.11.2016, 16:13
I had no idea that directors of national museums were given bonuses! All of them? I'm shocked! Granted I think they are more worth a high salary than bankers any day - compared with whom they probably get peanuts - but in this day and age I don't think anyone can really justify accepting a bonus, especially when national directors must already get very good salaries.
05.11.2016, 10:08
Most sensible people dislike seeing museum cuts. However, the link to staff low pay is flawed as long as senior Directors at all national institutions continue to take bonus payments, when their respective museums seldom win awards for performance. I see that Sara Wajid is speaking at the event and I wonder what she makes of her Royal Museums Greenwich Directors receiving additional remuneration over the past 5 years of between £475-£650K? Please see http://www.rmg.co.uk/work-services/what-we-do/policies-procedures/how-we-work/spending for details. The transparency of putting such information online will surely not assist those on low pay in gaining public support.