UK: Senior union rep suspended as National Gallery strike enters fourth week

19 March 2015
Candy Udwin, senior union rep for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) in the UK, has been dismissed after being suspended just before the strike began in February.

Members of PCS are part of a growing campaign against London's National Gallery plans to privatise 400 of their 600 staff. Just as this has become a national issue and on the eve of a five-day strike against the plans, the gallery has suspended a senior PCS representative, Candy Udwin, who was part of the union's negotiating team at recent talks at the conciliation service Acas.

Candy is accused of "breaching commercial confidentiality" by drafting questions for the union's full time negotiations officer to ask the gallery about the cost of using CIS, a private company employed in response to the dispute.

CIS was brought in to the gallery when strike action against privatisation was first threatened. It provides the same services usually provided by in-house visitor services staff and its contract was recently extended to cover the whole of the Sainsbury wing.

According to one National Gallery trustee speaking to the Guardian, CIS was brought in "to give the staff a fright".  This is at a huge additional cost to what is a publicly funded body.

The union views Candy's case as victimisation and an attempt to undermine its campaign and make it easier for the gallery to push through these plans. Almost 10,000 people have signed a letter to get her reinstated and more than 100 people attended a demonstration to support Candy.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "This is an utterly disgraceful decision that we will fight with every means at our disposal and Candy has our full support.

"It has been clear from the start that victimising Candy has been a direct attack on our union and it is absolutely shocking to think that one of this country's finest cultural institutions could act in such a way."

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