TORONTO – Planned layoffs at the Art Gallery of Ontario will threaten programs and activities at the gallery and could impact the preservation of the collections, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
On Feb. 26, management at the AGO notified staff at the gallery, members of OPSEU Local 535, that over 100 jobs could be eliminated. Last week, management met with the union executive to describe that these job losses were due to “restructuring” and “organizational changes.” The union was told that management had been in a review process for 18 months in which they studied various U.S. museums as models.
Local union executive members met with the employer this week to discuss the reason for the layoffs, but management at the AGO refused to give any details.
“We want to know why these layoffs are necessary, and discuss reasonable alternatives,” says Paula Whitmore, Local 535 union steward. “So far, the employer has stonewalled our attempts to get information, and only wants to discuss severance packages and eliminating full-time jobs.”
OPSEU Local 535 members run education programs at the gallery, including activities for children and families. They also care for and maintain collections, exhibitions and the building itself.
“The people who manage the AGO are doing it with taxpayer’s money, and they must be accountable,” says Whitmore. “The first line of accountability is to the employees who work at the gallery, so we can maintain the high standards that are expected of the AGO. Any plans that will harm programs or the care of the collections are short-sighted and irresponsible.”
The newly rebuilt AGO re-opened to the public in November 2008 after a successful campaign that raised over $300 million.