Tate asks staff to contribute towards boat for leaving gift

The Tate gallery has come under fire after it asked its employees to contribute towards a boat for the departing director, Nicholas Serota, amid disputes over pay.

The plea for donations read: “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”, adding that they had though ‘long and hard’ about an appropriate gift.

The notice which went up in the staff rooms of the Tate’s London galleries on Wednesday.

The poster has sparked anger among employees and across social media, many of whom are in “low paid” jobs and have been left feeling “sick” at the request.

The gallery and unions are involved in ongoing discussions over low pay and outsourced jobs which are managed by Securitas, which the guardian reports pays some workers less than those hired directly by Tate for the same jobs.

The notice had been taken down by Thursday lunchtime.

Tracy Edwards, the PCS representative for Tate staff,  told the Guardian that several workers had contacted her about the issue:

“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.”

A spokesperson from the Tate added in a statement:

“None of the people who work for Securitas have ever been directly employed by Tate. A small number of PCS members (those who work for Securitas) are on zero hours contracts. The majority are on permanent contracts.

“The rooms where the posters were shown are for visitor experience staff all of whom earn the London Living Wage or above and for volunteers. The Securitas staff are also paid above the London Living Wage and on the same pay range of the in-house visitor assistants.

“Tate’s staffing levels are appropriate to manage larger visitor numbers when the galleries are busy. Any additional staffing required to cover late nights or evening events outside of the core rota is offered as overtime to our in-house team and is entirely voluntary.

“Any uncovered positions are then filled by temporary visitor assistants provided by Securitas.”

Serota began as director of the Tate in 1988 and oversaw the opening of both the Tate Modern in 2000 and the Tate Modern Switch house in 2016. It is reported that in 2015, Serota was paid around £165,000.

Serota will be stepping down as director of the gallery at the end of May to join Arts Council England.

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