Notices about ‘leaving gift’ appear in staff rooms amid disputes over low pay and outsourcing, and end of canteen discount.
The Tate has come under fire after it asked members of staff, many of whom are not paid the London living wage, to contribute towards a boat for the departing director, Nicholas Serota, just one week after their canteen discount was taken away.
A notice which went up in the staff rooms of both Tate Modern and Tate Britain on Wednesday asked employees – including security, cleaners, and those maintain the galleries and work in the cafe and gift shop – to “put money towards a sailing boat” as a “surprise gift” for Serota.
The notice said management had thought “long and hard” about an appropriate gift for the director, who is leaving in May after 28 years at the Tate. “Nick loves sailing and this would be a lasting and very special reminder of the high regard which I know so many of us have for Nick and his contribution to Tate,” the plea for donations added.
The appearance of the notice was a source of anger among junior staff. The gallery has been embroiled in disputes over low pay and its decision to outsource a large number of jobs to agency Securitas, which does not pay the London living wage and pays workers less than those hired directly by Tate for the same jobs.
The notice was still up on Thursday morning but by lunchtime had been taken down.
Tracy Edwards, the PCS union representative for Tate staff, said several workers had contacted her about it, adding that she had originally thought it was a spoof.
“The staff at Tate are underpaid and overworked, and haven’t had appropriate pay rises, and this just demonstrates how divorced from reality the management at Tate are,” she said. “It seems to me they’ve made a big error of judgment.
“Our members are on zero-hours contracts, they are struggling to pay the bills each month, so to ask them to donate towards a boat – well, I can tell you the staff are not happy at all. It’s really rubbed people up the wrong way.”