The National Gallery, Dublin: to remain open despite action

STAFF at the National Gallery seem certain to go on strike after security workers voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action.

Relations between managements and workers have deteriorated significantly in recent months and the gallery's attendants voted on action this week.

Other sections of the gallery now have to be balloted to see if they support the attendants.

It is understood the gallery and its paintings will remain open to the public throughout any proposed industrial action.

Members of staff said they had no choice but to go on strike as they believed management had ignored a Labour Court recommendation. One gallery source said: "Industrial action is probably a fortnight away at this stage but it seems inevitable unless something extraordinary happens.

"Management will try and keep the galleries open, as they did in previous actions in 1997 and 1998, but we would be hopeful that members of the public will support us."

Morale amongst workers at the gallery has plummeted since the discovery of a hidden camera in March.

An urgent investigation has been ordered into industrial practices at the gallery, which has been the subject of a series of disputes with its 130 staff.

Adjudicating on the most recent dispute, Labour Court chairman Kevin Duffy said: "It is clear to the court that serious issues exist around the functioning of the HR [human resources] department, which should be addressed as a matter of urgency."

Duffy said an assessor should be appointed to "investigate the role, functions and practices of the HR department" and report back to the court.

In March, the Sunday Tribune revealed that a secret camera had been found in a staff locker area disguised as a motion sensor. It was only found after a worker traced wiring back to a video recorder. Management said that wine had gone missing from official functions held at the gallery on Merrion Square and that use of the camera had been discussed with gardaí.

Attendants at the gallery are also forced to use high-tech biometric scanners as they clock in and clock out each day.

However, most other employees are not subject to that regime.