Sotheby’s: Bad for art?
Last year, art auctioneers Sotheby’s sales increased by 74% to more than £3 billion. And recently, the firm reported its most profitable quarter in its 267 year history.
But despite the record profits and growth, Sotheby’s in New York is refusing to negotiate fair working conditions with its art handlers – the people who care for and transport the extremely valuable items they auction.
Instead of recognising and rewarding the contribution these workers have made to the company’s success, Sotheby’s look to be trying to make a quick buck on their staffing bill by cutting corners in the art handling department.
The company has presented the workers with new contract terms including shorter hours, lower pay, no pensions, and some skilled art handling staff being replaced by unskilled and cheaper temps.
The workers (members of the US Teamsters union) refused the new terms, but rather than negotiate, Sotheby’s decided to lock out all their art handlers, without pay, and outsourced all the jobs to unskilled temps.
Meanwhile, Sotheby’s rewarded its New York based CEO, William Ruprecht, by doubling his annual salary to almost $6 million.
Is Sotheby’s putting irreplaceable and fragile pieces of art at risk? Auctioneers may sell the art, but art handlers are responsible for the transportation, preparation and display of each piece.
Some of the locked out art handlers have more than 40 years of experience protecting art. Replacing these individuals with temporary workers is a risk not worth the comparatively small savings this unfair move will make.
The Teamsters at Sotheby’s (Local 814) have asked for help from the UK, as the company was founded here, and London remains a key market for them.
Please join us in writing to Melanie Clore, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, and The Hon James Stourton, Sotheby’s UK Chairman, asking them to put pressure on Sotheby’s New York to negotiate a fair new contract with the locked out workers. The company need to:
- End the unfair lockout
- Drop demands to replace professional art handlers with untrained temps
- Remove the insistence on severe pension and pay cuts, despite record profits