Museum workers strike over wages, job security

Union workers at the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization are on strike, protesting low wages and a lack of job security.

More than 400 guides, hosts and animators, represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, set up picket lines Monday.  Strikers are demanding greater job security, as the vast majority of front-line employees are either part-time or contract workers, said union representative Ariel Troster.

In a press release sent out Monday, museum worker Melissa Ferland said the workers also want “fair treatment that is equivalent to the way that other museum workers are treated in the region.”  According to the press release, workers at the two museums can make up to 40 per cent less than workers at other Ottawa museums.

Negotiations between the union and the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, which owns both museums, broke down in August, with an “overwhelming” 92 per cent of workers voting to strike, Troster said in an interview.

CMCC representative Chantal Schryer said the corporation is saddened by the situation and has been attempting to meet the union’s demands, but is searching for a compromise.

“If we went with [the union’s] demands of salary and benefit packages, it would bring our budget envelope up approximately 30 per cent,” she said.  “We cannot afford that.”

Although both museums are open for business as usual, the strike will have an effect on museum operations, especially school groups and special programs, said Schryer.  

Carrie Bastas, vice-principal at Glashan Public School, said that although she sympathizes with the strikers, her students will be missing out on a truly enriching experience.

“When you have a hands-on experience, it’s much more powerful than a textbook experience,” she said.  “Some of the workshops are really quite incredible.”