There is limited access at the National Gallery today due to ongoing strike action by the Public and Commercial Services Union, which opposes the gallery’s modernisation programme. The modernisation programme includes privatising up to two-thirds of the gallery’s 600 staff, including those who look after the security of paintings, deal with the public, and respond to requests for information about the collection.

Today marks the 51st day of strikes over the modernisation plans since February this year. The ongoing industrial action has received widespread publicity and has even been debated in the House of Commons and raised in the House of Lords.

In a statement the National Gallery said:

“The National Gallery is a public asset and we have a duty to ensure the collection and the Gallery itself is accessible as much as possible to as many people as possible. We take this task seriously and our ongoing modernisation programme is designed to encourage a broader (and younger) audience to access the wealth of cultural inspiration the National Gallery has to offer. In particular, we have ambitious plans to extend further our education programme and public events.

To allow these plans to be implemented the National Gallery needs to introduce new working practices for some visitor-facing and security staff to enable the National Gallery to operate more flexibly. There will be no job cuts and terms and conditions will be protected.

The National Gallery believes the proposed changes are essential to enable us to deliver an enhanced service to our 6 million annual visitors for many years to come, and to remain as one of the world’s leading art galleries.”

The National Gallery has recently announced that it will pay the London Living Wage to all staff from 1 July 2015.