Tensions are boiling over at the Tate, where low-paid staff members—many of whom are not paid the London living wage—have been asked to contribute towards an elaborate gift for Nicholas Serota, who is leaving the museum after almost 30 years at the helm.
Signs posted on Wednesday around employee areas at Tate Modern and Tate Britain show the institution asking its staff to “put money towards a sailing boat” as a “surprise” leaving gift for the director.
“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,” the notice reads.
The request has sparked anger among Tate’s staff, especially since their ten percent discount at the canteen was revoked just last week.
The Guardian reports that the museum was already in hot water due to a dispute over low pay and its decision to outsource jobs to Securitas, an agency that does not offer London living wage to its workers and typically pays less than those hired directly by Tate.
“This shows how far Tate management are removed from the reality of the everyday lives of Tate staff and the fact that many of them can barely afford to pay their bills,” Dave Tilley, a spokesperson for PSC, the union that represents Tate staff members, told artnet News.
“It is insensitive that Tate management would even think to do this and we would encourage them to concentrate on listening to our concerns as we campaign for fair pay, more staff, and an end to outsourcing at Tate,” he continued.
The move is particularly upsetting now, as the highly-successful David Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain, which ends tomorrow, has put an extra weight on workers, with long opening hours and massive crowds.
“The idea for Nicholas Serota’s leaving gift came from the staff themselves who wanted to mark his 28 years of service to Tate. Contributions towards the purchase of a small dinghy, which the staff thought would be an original gift, are entirely voluntary,” reads a statement from Tate, sent to artnet News.
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