Oil sponsorship is just one example of the negative influence of large corporations in our public spaces.

Many workers in UK museums and galleries – including thousands represented by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union – are deeply concerned by the growing trend towards privatisation and outsourcing in publicly-funded cultural institutions like the British Museum.

The Museum uses many casual agency staff and has outsourced several services to Carillion, a company notorious for its role in the construction blacklisting scandal (see “Hard Hat”).

This privatisation has made it harder for Museum staff to secure fair pay and conditions for their work. The PCS Union opposes both oil sponsorship and privatisation, seeing them as two related parts of the same creeping corporate takeover of our public spaces.

In May 2015, the PCS Union Culture Sector passed a motion officially condemning oil company sponsorship of cultural institutions. The motion was proposed by staff from National Museums Liverpool and passed with overwhelming support from delegates.

The union is now committed to campaigning for an end to oil sponsorship in the galleries and museums where its members work. The PCS has members in a number of public institutions that accept money from BP or Shell, including the British Museum, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

This sunflower – presented by the PCS Culture Sector – was used in the 2014-15 anti-privatisation campaign by workers at the National Gallery, which included 111 days of strike action.

Activists opposing oil sponsorship also joined the campaign, with the groups “BP or not BP?” and “Reclaim the Power” both creating performance protests within the National Gallery that called for an end to the privatisation and also the end of the Gallery’s sponsorship deal with Shell. The campaign succeeded in securing better rights for the Nation Gallery workers, and the reinstatement of sacked union rep Candy Udwin.

“We believe these sponsorship deals and privatisation are two sides of the same coin: a capitalist model for arts and culture which we reject”

Clara Paillard, President of the PCS Culture Sector


Further reading