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Art gallery union workers walk off the job in Vancouver

Last Updated Feb 5, 2019 at 2:57 pm PST

FILE - Vancouver Art Gallery (Sonia Aslam, NEWS 1130, Photo)
Summary

Union workers at the Vancouver Art Gallery have walked off the job, citing unsuccessful contract talks with the employer

CUPE Local 15 told its members at the Vancouver Art Gallery to stop all work Tuesday morning

Vancouver Art Gallery union employees have been working without a collective agreement since July 2017

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Picket lines are going up around the Vancouver Art Gallery as the union representing about 200 employees announces a work stoppage.

CUPE Local 15 told its members to stop all work as of 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, check in with picket captains, and wear warm clothing for what it said could be extended work stoppage.

The union claims gallery managers are seeking major concessions, like cuts to sick-leave entitlements.

It issued 72-hour strike notice last week, citing unsuccessful contract talks with the employer.

“For months we have been seeking fair treatment from Galley business managers, yet we continue to face concession demands and two-tier working conditions and scheduling models,” CUPE 15 President Warren Williams said in a release.

Employees have been working without a collective agreement since July of 2017.

“The employer has chosen to force a vote on its rejected proposal rather than spending time at the bargaining table working out a fair and negotiated settlement,” Williams added. “This tactic represents the sort of the disrespectful treatment our members have received throughout these negotiations.”

The union says wage proposals by the employer fail to keep up with inflation, and “falls far short of addressing the cost of living challenges” the workers have to deal with.

But according to the Art Gallery, unionized employees have actually seen their benefits improved.

“We have not rolled back any benefits to our current team members and in fact, we’ve, in many cases, benefits have been enhanced,” says Johanie Marcoux with the gallery.

She says sick-leave benefits have not been scaled back, she also says the gallery has added to the overtime pay.

“What I can say is that we engaged in a very collaborative and respectful bargaining process,” she adds. “And in face, we both agreed, so the union and the gallery had approved this mission of our proposal to be submitted to employees for a vote and now we’re just waiting for the labour relations board to confirm a date and time for that vote to take place.”

The current collective agreement expired on July 1, 2017.

Marcoux says the gallery remains open but notes some of the services, such as tours and education programs, have been scaled back.

“Ther gallery very much values its unionized employees and we really appreciate their contributions and we obviously have that in mind as we go through this process,” she adds.

-With files from Sonia Aslam