Art Gallery of Ontario remains indefinitely shut as strike drags on

Art Gallery of Ontario. Image credit: Facebook page of Art Gallery of Ontario

Toronto/CMEDIA: Located in Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) reportedly remains closed indefinitely as hundreds of its employees are holding strong on the picket lines.

One of the largest art museums in North America, AGO attracts approximately one million visitors annually.

On March 26, the chapter officially went on strike, after an offer from the employer failed “to make meaningful improvements on key issues, including wage increases and protections against contracting out for precarious part-time workers,” according to a news release.

Amid ongoing negotiations with the Art Gallery of Ontario, members of AGO Local 535 remain on strike rounding out their fourth week on the picket line and it is likely they might be there for a while.

“As public service employees, we were hit right in the paycheck during the pandemic…struggled through a public health crisis and three years of unconstitutional wage freezes…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,” said Paul Ayers, President of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535.

After the most recent negotiation meeting between employees and the AGO, on April 17, the union remains no where closer to having their requests met.

Local members reported saying that it’s not too late for the AGO to end the strike and bring forward a better offer.

Community members are being called by the union to email Stephan Jost, Director and CEO of AGO and demand a fair deal for workers.

“Many of these workers are artists in their own rig 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.”

In spite of the lack of progress towards the desired resolution as well as the financial challenges already being experienced by some members of the chapter, spirits reporyedly remained high among picketers.

With no schedule of future talks ,the future remains unclear for picketers, and it could be weeks before they take to the table again.

The AGO workers’ online pledge form has garnered nearly 4,000 signatures from supporters showing solidarity to the striking chapter.