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Art Gallery of Ontario to reopen April 30 after workers ratify new contract

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will reopen its doors to the public next week after its workers voted to ratify a new agreement.

The AGO has been closed since March 26, when 400 workers, represented by OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535, rejected the museum’s initial offer and walked off the job.

Earlier this week, the union announced that it reached a tentative deal with the AGO following a 16-hour bargaining.

In a statement on Friday, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535 revealed that 85 per cent of the workers who cast their ballots accepted the deal.

“We are walking away from one month on strike as a changed local,” Paul Ayers, president of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 535, said in a statement.

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

The union said the new contract includes an 11.4 per cent wage increase for full-time and part-time workers along with a one per cent wage reopener retroactive to Dec. 1, 2021.

In addition, 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 are part of the agreement.

Ayers said the wage increases are a welcome relief.

“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 10-59 per cent,” he said.

OPSEU/SEFPO president JP Hornick added that the deal, which also includes improvements to meal allowances, shift premiums and bereavement leave for full-time employees, opens important doors in the fight “against encroaching and long-standing precarity at the Art Gallery of Ontario.”

“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,” Hornick said.

The union represents archivists, assistant curators, art handlers, food and beverages staff, retail and custodial workers, art educators, technicians, and other gallery staff at the AGO.

According to the AGO’s website, it will reopen on April 30.

With files from The Canadian Press

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