Art Gallery of Ontario Shutters as Labor Strike Begins

The Art Gallery of Toronto Ontario (AGO) is closed today, March 27, as about 430 union workers strike for significant wage increases and contract protections for part-time workers.

Members of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO) Chapter 535, which includes AGO staff across the museum, including assistant curators, archivists, food and hospitality staff, visitor services, researchers and technicians, started the strike shortly after midnight. yesterday, rallying outside the museum’s entrance in downtown Toronto with signs reading “Art is for everyone and so is a living wage” and “Show me Monet!”

Today is the second day of the picketing, which has effectively stopped the operation of the institution since the start of the strike.

During the last 10 For months, unionized workers have been negotiating with AGO leadership, fighting for higher wages, standardized hours and securing contracts for temporary and casual part-time staff. Additionally, the union is seeking access to benefits for part-time workers who currently lack paid vacation time, sick days and parental leave.

“It’s very difficult to live your life day by day, paycheck to paycheck, and it’s really unsafe to live for over 60% of [union] membership that works at the AGO,” said Meagan Christou, a part-time art installer and collections specialist who has worked at the museum for seven years. Hyperallergic. Throughout her time at the AGO, Christou explained that her work schedule has remained erratic, fluctuating depending on exhibition programming.

“I was also scheduled to work and I was fired,” Christou said, adding that there are currently no mechanisms to prevent the museum from outsourcing work instead of relying on its own staff.

Paul Ayers, president of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535, also noted the current salary discrepancies between AGO staff and the institution’s chief executive officer Stephan Jost, whose salary was over $404,000 CAD (approximately $297,600 USD) in 2022 Because there is no stable base. entry wage for part-time staff at the AGO, some employees are currently earning just $12.65 CAD ($9.32 USD).

According to 2023 data from the Ontario Living Wage Network, residents of Toronto and the surrounding area need to make at least $25.05 CAD per hour to live comfortably.

The job action is just the latest rift for the AGO, which has recently been the site of various demonstrations accusing the Canadian cultural institution of suppressing Indigenous voices and silencing pro-Palestinian views following the departure of Indigenous curator Wanda Nanibush. and Taqralik Partridge. Earlier this month, union workers gathered outside the museum to protest the marginal progress made since their first bargaining session in May 2023.

Christou said Hyperallergic that another point of action of the union has been the creation of a joint committee on equality issues; however, AGO leadership was “not interested in” the proposal.

AGO Communications Director Laura Quinn said Hyperallergic that the museum is “hopeful” it will soon reach an agreement with the union.

“The museum remains willing to negotiate and fully available to work constructively with employee representatives to reach a reasonable and fair agreement,” Quinn said.

But the striking employees have made it clear that they will not accept until the institution commits to a date and time for the next negotiation session.

“We’re really looking for public pressure to tell our employer to come back to the table as soon as possible so we can go back and get a good deal for our membership,” he said. Christou.

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