Staff members of Tate—many of whom are not paid London’s living wage—are up in arms after the organization requested donations for buying outgoing director Nicholas Serota a sailboat as a parting gift, Hannah Ellis-Petersen of The Guardian reports.
Employees were outraged after a notice stating that museum officials thought “long and hard” about a gift for Serota, who will leave Tate in May, and that it planned to purchase a sailboat, as a “very special reminder of the high regard which I know so many of us have for Nick and his contribution to Tate,” was posted in staff rooms at both Tate Modern and Tate Britain.
Tate staff’s union representative Tracy Edwards said that workers first thought the signs were a hoax. “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. It seems to me they’ve made a big error of judgment.”
Edwards added that the notice coincides with the staff’s benefits being reduced and the wildly popular David Hockney exhibition, which has drawn massive crowds and caused staff members to work longer hours. She said, “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 statement issued by Tate defended the organization, claiming it has worked toward raising salaries over the past three years and that there is “no obligation for any staff to give towards a leaving gift. However, they can if they wish.” According to one museum professional who wished to remain anonymous, the incident highlights the widening gap between staff and upper management.