Tate’s tone deaf ‘long-service gift’ leaves workers gobsmacked

Having asked low-paid staff to buy outgoing director Nicholas Serota a new boat last month Tate is now showing its gratitude for long-suffering workers in less rarefied circles — a gift card for the company store which won’t be offered to the staff it recently outsourced.

People who have spent 28 years at Tate, the same as their nautically-minded £170,000-per-year boss, will be eligible for a whopping £125 spending spree on the same overpriced wares they’re told to to flog to the public, as opposed to getting a nice yacht to tack up the river Alde on a sunny Suffolk day.

In itself the offer will be seen as a slap in the face to hardworking employees who have been in a major dispute with Tate over terms and conditions, as outsourcing and zero-hours contracts imposed under Serota’s watch have led to a precarious two-tier workforce undercutting wages, even taking away subsidised food at the company canteen. Some staff are still not earning the London living wage.

But the real kicker is that most Tate staff have already been made ineligible for this dubious prize — because they’ve had their jobs outsourced they technically work for an entirely different firm.

In fact the biggest winners from the Tate offer will be middle to upper management, who are likely to both stick around for decades on secure long-term in-house contracts and earn enough that gift cards are just a lovely little bonus. The very people who have been facing pressure to show they aren’t treating staff like chattel while lining their own pockets and indulging in art set backslapping exercises.

Tate Modern director Frances Morris for example, who joined the organisation in 1987 and whose role is paid £125,000 per annum according to Tate’s most recent 2013 submissions, rather handily qualifies this year for the “three decades” voucher worth £225.

A source at Tate, who came across the “frankly insulting” offer, said: “There are some visitor assistants left who are employed directly by the Tate, who actually have been here for 20-30 years, way before any of the privatisation stuff came along. But needless to say this paltry offer doesn’t apply to the the rest of the now outsourced VAs, to the catering and cleaning team or the security guards.”

The latest flap comes as PCS union members at Tate and their supporters prepare to hold a Golden Boat Awards to mark Nicholas Serota’s going-away bash on Thursday 25th. The pirate-themed street party will be presenting the (likely absent) outgoing director with a special prize for his many contributions to privatisation, casualisation and low wages.

The PCS Culture Group is hoping to make the satirical awards show an annual event, and is asking supporters to get down to Tate Britain with “noise, arty banners, tinnies and your dancing shoes!” from 6pm onwards.

The long service scheme, as posted on the staff wall

What staff actually want

  • Complete pay parity and conditions between Tate staff and outsourced zero hours Securitas staff
  • Trade union recognition and rights for Securitas zero hours staff – job contracts and security for those who want it
  • Protection and support for EU staff after Brexit
  • Staff discount in canteen reinstated

Pics: Ian Southwell CC 2.0, Contributed.