Hundreds of AGO workers represented by OPSEU Local 535 are on strike after years of wage cuts and precarity. According to the union, the AGO’s last offer was an insult. On pay, after years of wage erosion under Bill-124, its latest offer was an “increase” of three per cent this year and 3.5 per cent next year—a cut from its previous offer and just barely above inflation. Anything more, according to the employer, would cause the Ford government “undue hardship.”

This was rightly rejected by the workers. And, below is a letter we received from an AGO worker laying out the main issues.

Most employees are stuck in a constant cycle of renewing these contracts, without ever having security in their position. You might be given a 6-month contract, which can be renewed for another period of time if they’re pleased with your performance. In my department, only four of my coworkers (out of 13) were permanent employees, having worked at the gallery for several years before getting to this position.

Although we literally run every facet of the gallery, management treats us as if we’re completely expendable. One day you can wake up and suddenly be told you aren’t “needed” anymore but that you were “a great addition to the team”.

The average part-time employee makes around $34,000 a year while the full-time employees make somewhere in the $40,000 range. Meanwhile, the CEO, Stephan Jost, parades around the gallery without a care in the world, as he made upward of $400,000 in 2023 (this is not including his “consulting fees”, paid out by the AGO foundation of another almost four hundred thousand dollars).

Management in the retail department made all of the important decisions like how the store was run, how we should behave (meaning, grovel at the feet of the members and upsell no matter what), our salaries, and our schedules yet didn’t even spend a microsecond in the store themselves.

–Anonymous, Toronto