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Gallery staff join strike action


London's cultural centres were not immune from strike action today. Many of the National Gallery collections were closed to the public after security, administration and technical staff walked out.

Visitors queuing for entry to the gallery's flagship Da Vinci exhibition encountered picketing staff members from the PCS, FDA and Prospect Unions. The gallery charges £16 for the exhibition and made a priority of keeping it open, in spite of staff shortages. Union members estimated that more than half the gallery's staff were on strike. The gallery said that only the Sainsbury Wing and Central Hall and five other rooms would be staffed, with all other rooms closed.

"Employees in the cultural sector are dedicated to their profession, and do not often ballot for strike action," said Graham Steel, senior national officer at the Public and Commercial Services Union. "This is the high-water mark for us in terms of numbers walking out."

Gallery director Dr Nicholas Parry crossed the picket line to arrive for work today, but told The Independent that he "absolutely understood" why his staff were on strike.

About two thirds of the British Museum's galleries were closed for the day and the Tate galleries also experienced disruption. Some galleries were shut at the Victoria & Albert Museum, but the Natural History Museum was open for business as usual.