What do you get the man who has everything when you’re working on an outsourced, casualised contract he implemented?
Workers at institutional arts giant Tate were offered a jaw-dropping answer yesterday via a note left in their staffroom and a staff-wide email which urged them, seemingly without irony, to donate towards buying outgoing CEO Nicholas Serota a sailing boat as a going away present. The note says:
As you know, we’re making plans to say goodbye to Nick in a way that is fitting to mark the immense achievements of his 28 years at Tate … at the party we would like to surprise Nick with a leaving gift from current and former members of staff.
We have thought long and hard about what to get, and have decided to put money towards a sailing boat. 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.
Reactions to the “tone deaf” message, sent by lackeys at Tate Modern and Tate Britain, were incredulous. Serota has come under sustained fire from PCS union members over the last year for first overseeing the outsourcing of roles to private firm Securitas in May 2016, and then turning his back on them when Securitas tore up union agreements and imposed zero-hours contracts.
In a satirical response on gofundme, “Valerie Brownson” said:
I have been inspired by this crowdsourcing technique and hoping that I can ask for something even more frivolous such as money for rent, transport and lunch (the staff canteen just put the prices up, you see).
While I deeply regret that my need for two-for-one tortellini pack and a pint of milk will mean that I may not be able to contribute to Serota’s fund, I surely welcome the spirit — asking publicly funded employees that have no social security, sickpay, holiday pay or pensions to pay for a parting gift that is worth more than 10 years of our salary.
Please donate to my fund — an aspiring artist that is being pushed out of London by ever-rising rent, transport and studio costs. While you do, pray a little prayer to Mr Serota – god forbid he gets sea-sickness thinking of us gross poverty types whilst on his £275k a year salary.
Just last month a protest as part of the EqualiTate campaign for fair pay structures was held by union members outside the Tate Britain gallery. Staff, who are 90% against the outsourcing of roles, have been calling for the honouring of a 2014 trade union recognition agreement with PCS to:
- Negotiate on behalf of PCS members’ terms and conditions
- Allow privatised workers to choose the union they want – the rest of the workforce is in the Tate United PCS branch and don’t have our workplace representation forced on us by a hostile company.
- Ensure staff are treated fairly with dignity and respect – zero hours workers are excluded from training and development opportunities.
- Challenge ongoing payroll problems
And have demanded that Serota, as the man ultimately responsible for the mess being made of employees’ lives, intervene to help clear things up. Serota however has dragged his feet every step of the way on workers’ rights — staff were only granted the living wage in 2015 after a sustained campaign by trade unionists.