Mediator to meet with striking Vancouver Art Gallery staff

VANCOUVER — Both sides involved in a labour dispute at the Vancouver Art Gallery will meet with a mediator today. The downtown Vancouver gallery remains open but is operating with a skeleton staff after 200 unionized workers went on strike on Tuesday morning.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 15, said in a statement that it had applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board for a mediator

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CUPE 15 president Warren Williams said that after eight months of bargaining, members are frustrated that gallery managers aren’t budging.

“We are hopeful that a mediator can help rebuild the relationship between the parties in order to bring about a fair, respectful and negotiated settlement,” he said.

The parties are scheduled to meet with the mediator today at 9 a.m.

On Saturday, ahead of mediation, a rally in support of the striking workers was held at the gallery.

More than 100 union supporters, including members of the B.C. Federation of Labour and the BCGEU, turned up for the demonstration.

The workers voted 96 per cent in favour of a strike and gave the gallery strike notice last week.

Johanie Marcoux, director of marketing, communications and public affairs for the art gallery, said this week that the gallery will assess on a day-to-day basis whether it remains open.

Marcoux said the gift shop and café are open. All school groups and tours were cancelled.

Marcoux said the gallery believes it has submitted a proposal to the union that is “fair and reasonable for both employees and the gallery, which is an independent, not-for-profit organization.”

Outstanding issues include two-tiered working conditions and wages.

In a letter to members Friday, the gallery said it is offering staff a 4.75 per cent wage increase over a three year period, which it believes is “fair and sustainable,” while the union is proposing a 5.5 per cent increase.

— With files from Kevin Griffin

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