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AGO to reopen Tuesday after workers ratify new deal, union local says

Unionized workers at the Art Gallery of Ontario have voted to ratify a new agreement with their employer after a strike that closed the gallery in Toronto for a month.

In a news release on Friday, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 535, said 281 members out of over 400 voted 85 per cent yes on Friday to accept the tentative agreement reached with the AGO on April 25.

The local represents archivists, assistant curators, art handlers, food and beverages staff, retail and custodial workers, art educators, technicians, among others.

The AGO said it will reopen on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.

Paul Ayers, president of the local, said in the release that the strike was a first at the gallery. The job action began on March 25, after 10 months of negotiations failed to produce a new deal.

A worker holds a sign that reads: "Art matters and so do we."
Workers from the Art Gallery of Ontario are pictured here on their first day of strike action on March 25. The workers ratified a new collective agreement with their employer on Friday. (CBC)

“The dedication of workers standing up together after years of deteriorating working conditions at the gallery was nothing short of inspiring,” Ayers said.

The new collective agreement covers a period from Dec. 1, 2022, due to a one-year extension agreement, and will expire on Nov. 30, 2025. That means workers will be back at the table in just over a year.

The union local said gains include an 11.4 per cent wage increase for full-time and part-time workers, plus a one per cent wage reopener retroactive to Dec. 1, 2021. They also include 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 improved meal allowances, shift premiums and bereavement leave for full-time employees.

Ayers said the wage increase is particularly welcome.

“As public service employees, our wages were unconstitutionally capped at a one per cent annual increase since 2020. It stokes your fire, when members are struggling, to see management receive yearly pay bumps in the range of 10 to 59 per cent.”

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