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Just in: National Gallery staff walk out in Olympic strike

After all the warnings of disruptions in the transport sector, the only strike at the Olympics has come in the arts.

Assistants at the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square walked out today, protesting job losses. Their absence forced the closure of 27 rooms.

Some union members at the neighbouring National Portrait Gallery and at the Tate have walked out in sympathy.

Staff at British museums are generally held to be among the most retrograde  arts workers. Poorly paid, they cling to union agreements and often block modernisation plans. Most will regard today’s strike as unhelpful to British arts.

Read more here.

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  1. “Most will regard today’s strike as unhelpful to British arts.”

    Most may, but I won’t.

    Staff at British museums will be acutely aware of how severely the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was underestimating the cost of the Olympics back in 2007 – I believe DCMS’ estimate was then £6 billion, and according to a revised estimate I saw a week or so ago it has now ballooned to £11 billion.

    A good chunk of the public money that was diverted to patch things up came from the arts, including museums.

    When the full scale of the error began to become apparent, arts leaders took the admirable line that the Olympics should be celebrated, not decried, and put a brave face on a damaging situation. That appears to have been maintained in the intervening years.

    However, if some museum workers have now decided not to do so, I for one can understand why. There are limits.

    If we’re talking about what has been unhelpful to the arts, the impact of DCMS’ budgeting error dwarfs this latest development. I would argue that we can’t judge this strike without understanding the consequences of that. And the chronic imbalances it has caused in the consideration of cultural priorities.

  2. Correction – the original budget was $2.4bn (

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