London’s National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is to face an Employment Tribunal challenge at the hands of 27 art educators and lecturers, it has been revealed.
In recent days, a group of former ‘freelance’ workers have been mounting a legal challenge against the Gallery on grounds of unfair dismissal and worker status, after it emerged that the individuals involved, who had been providing tours and lectures at the Gallery for many decades, had been relieved of their duties.
The claimants, who were classed as ‘freelancers’ but paid through a taxed PAYE system, argue that they should have been considered ‘employees’.
As part of their argument, they point out that they received regular training and appraisals from the National Gallery as part of an employer-employee style relationship. They add that they were asked to wear official National Gallery badges as if they were part of a work uniform.
The workers claim that they were not fully consulted prior to their dismissal and that they should be entitled to retrospective holiday pay.
However, the Gallery argues differently, insisting that the group were “consulted for their views together and individually over the change for a period of three months between October 2017 and January 2018,” which came about “out of the Gallery’s wish to change from offering ad hoc work to offering more secure employment” to its future workers.
“These [new] jobs were offered to all of our existing freelance service providers last year,” a spokesperson on behalf of the Gallery said.
“We still have vacancies which are available, although unfortunately not all of the group have expressed an interest in these,” they added.
James Heard, a claimant who worked at the National Gallery for 45 years, said that the group were determined to stand up for “fair treatment for staff in the arts, and to protect the teaching expertise at the heart of our museums.”
A fellow claimant added that the group’s “longstanding contribution” to the Gallery should be “recognised and valued.”
“Despite our attempts to raise our concerns with the gallery, we as a group have not been given the rights to which we believe we are entitled,” they said.
A preliminary hearing is due to take place on Monday 23 July.