Art Gallery of Ontario workers and communities allies rally outside the gallery ahead of strike action. Photo Credit: OPSEU/SEFPO

πŸ§‘πŸ”ŽπŸ§‘πŸ–ΌοΈ Over 400 Art Gallery Of Ontario Workers Are on Strike: "The Arts Matter. So Do We!"

Tuesday, 26 March 2024 10:22.AM

Over 400 Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) cultural workers, members of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535, are on strike as of 12:01 a.m., March 26th, 2024. Yesterday evening, membership voted to reject the employer's last offer, commencing a labour disruption. The union says that the offer fails to make meaningful improvements on key issues, including wage increases and protections against contracting out for precarious part-time workers.

"As public service employees, we were hit right in the paycheck during the pandemic," said Paul Ayers, President of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535. "While we struggled through a public health crisis and three years of unconstitutional wage freezes, elite executives made hundreds of thousands. We need a deal that helps us stay afloat in a cost-of-living crisis in the most expensive city in Canada – and the AGO's latest offer falls short of that."

"Many of these workers are artists in their own right that contribute to the cultural fabric of the city. Devaluing artists is not how we show the public that the arts matter," said OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick. "The AGO is sending the message that as a prominent cultural institution, it prioritizes the bottom line over peoples' livelihood."

After ten months of bargaining, the union says that the gallery is shortchanging long-term, loyal staff with an offer that does not reflect contemporary wages. Members of the Local include assistant curators, archivists, food and hospitality staff, researchers, technicians, carpenters, electricians, instructors, designers, visitor services staff, and more.

"Being a 'world class' institution, as the AGO claims to be, starts with being a decent employer," said Ayers. "Last time we checked, part-time workers still pay full-time rent. We need a deal that makes it possible to earn a living and secure your future while working at the AGO."

Local members say it's not too late for the AGO to end the strike and bring forward a better offer. The union is calling on community members to email CEO Stephan Jost and demand a fair deal for workers.

"The AGO Foundation paid out its CEO, Stephan Jost, over $390k in 'consulting' fees between 2020 and 2021 alone – on top of his $406k salary," said Ayers. "Yet there's no money for wages? The gallery can absolutely afford to bring forward a better offer."

"To paint a picture, these workers keep the gallery lights on, the doors open, and the programming delivered," Hornick added. "Last week, we put the AGO on notice: once workers strike, it'll be more than just performance art. I'll see you on the picket line."

SOURCE: Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO)

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