PCS members at the Tate galleries are on strike this week against job cuts. While management receive six-figure salaries, workers in the culture sector are facing redundancy. The labour movement must fight back against these attacks.
Many bosses have used the excuse of the coronavirus to make job cuts. One such employer engaging in this foul trick recently is the Tate Gallery group.
In response to the threat of 313 redundancies across the galleries, however, workers organised by PCS have begun strike action.
Socialist Appeal supporters attended pickets at Tate Modern this week to show support and solidarity. We found a militant atmosphere amongst the striking workers.
“The scale of the sackings left us with no choice other than to strike,” one PCS activist told us. “There was no attempt to negotiate, they just immediately sacked us. It’s like going back in time to the worst version of capitalism you can imagine.”
PCS have rightly pointed to the fact that the Tate are in the process of receiving £7 million in government support. The union has demanded that 10% of this money be earmarked to save jobs. According to the workers we spoke to, however, management have so far refused to accept this proposal.
“It’s disgraceful,” stated a pair of young workers who had joined the after-picket protest. “They tried to disguise what they were doing with talk of ‘restructuring’, but we knew what that actually meant.”
The brutality and injustice of this action is also highlighted by the sheer number of higher management who sit very comfortably on £100,000 per year. Another key demand raised by workers is that no redundancies of lower-paid staff should occur so long as even a single six-figure salary remains on the books.
The picket line itself was very well attended, and the protest afterward even more so. Workers drew attention from passers-by with drums and – incredibly – a gong. The chants that went up highlighted very clearly what this strike is all about.
When asked about this, one PCS activist we spoke to noted how ridiculous it was that their jobs were being cut while executive pay remained so high. They rightly pointed out that, “they won’t even save very much money through these redundancies, because we’re all paid so little.”
Nevertheless, the gallery workers aren’t prepared to just lie down and let their jobs be taken from them.
“This is a political question, fundamentally,” one of the workers explained to us. “Almost the whole of the Board of Trustees are Tories.”
“This goes beyond just the culture sector,” this same activist continued. “They lied to us when they said we’re all in it together during this pandemic. They’re trying to make working class people pay for this crisis.”
We 100% agree. By showing a determined attitude to strike action, the PCS activists on the Tate picket lines follow in the footsteps of the Tower Hamlets council workers, the Bromley library staff, and many others who have stood firm recently in the face of the bosses’ attacks.
We wish them victory, and call upon workers across London and across the labour movement to show solidarity with their struggle.
The fighting spirit we saw at the PCS-led protests this week does not solely exist within gallery staff. In the words of one PCS activist: “We’re the first to strike, but more will follow. We’re on strike this week and next week until we win. Lots of working-class people are in the same situation as us.”
All over the country, workers are faced with a tsunami of job losses. And worse is certain to follow as the real impact of the crisis begins to bite.
The labour movement must respond forcefully to oppose these attacks. The PCS gallery workers have shown the way forward, with militant organisation and action. This is the way to fight back and make the bosses pay for this crisis.
Readers can support the Tate workers by donating to their strike fundraiser here.