Art Gallery of Ontario Workers Ratify New Agreement Following Historic First Strike at the Gallery

TORONTO, April 26, 2024 /CNW/ – Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) workers, members of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535, voted today to ratify their new collective agreement after a one-month, historic first strike at the gallery.

The online ratification vote began Friday, April 26 at 4:30 p.m. 281 members out of over 400 archivists, assistant curators, art handlers, food and beverages staff, retail and custodial workers, art educators, technicians, and more who staff the gallery cast ballots, 85% voting “yes” to accept the tentative agreement reached by their bargaining team early in the morning of April 25.

“We are walking away from one month on strike as a changed local,” said Paul Ayers, President of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535. “The dedication of workers standing up together after years of deteriorating working conditions at the gallery was nothing short of inspiring.”

The new collective agreement between OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535 and the Art Gallery of Ontario spans a timeframe from December 1, 2022, due to a one-year extension agreement, and will expire on November 30, 2025 – meaning workers will be back at the table in little over a year.

Gains include an 11.4% wage increase for full-time and part-time workers – including a 1% wage reopener retroactive to December 1, 2021 – as well as part-time conversion language, expanded worker rights to hold employment in multiple positions, and the establishment of a joint committee aimed at reducing third-party contracting out of part-time labour. The agreement also features improvements to meal allowances, shift premiums, and bereavement leave for full-time employees.

The wage gains are welcome relief after years of wage suppression, says Ayers. “As public service employees, our wages were unconstitutionally capped at a 1% annual increase since 2020. It stokes your fire, when members are struggling, to see management receive yearly pay bumps in the range of 10-59%.”

“This agreement opens important doors in the fight against encroaching and long-standing precarity at the Art Gallery of Ontario,” added JP Hornick, the newly re-elected President of OPSEU/SEFPO. “It’s a product of workers’ creativity and perseverance on the line. As the first ever strike at the gallery comes to a close, we hope that an important lesson has been instilled in the AGO: workers are ready to fight for their future and – if necessary – we will shut it down.”

“To all of our community and labour allies that joined us on the picket line and joined the chorus of public support: thank you for standing with us in our fight for a future at the gallery,” Ayers concluded. “The relationships workers forge with each other through strikes are a mosaic of victories. We’re facing tomorrow together, as a stronger union who knows the full-time and part-time fights are indivisible. And we’re not done here – this is only the beginning.”

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO)

For further information: Vic Wojciechowska, OPSEU/SEFPO Communications, (437) 518 3459, [email protected]

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