The National Gallery of Canada (photo by Djof/Flickr)

The National Gallery of Canada (photo by Djof/Flickr)

The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa may lock out 175 of its employees next month if negotiations between the museum and the union that represents the workers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), are not successful.

The museum’s management had previously scheduled two weeks of talks with the union for September, but canceled the negotiations the day they were due to begin. The National Gallery’s management then applied for conciliation, a provision that, per Canadian labor laws, would allow them to lock out the union workers beginning next month. The issues up for negotiation include increased wages and severance pay, according to a PSAC release.

“We were very clear at the bargaining table that we would not be applying for Conciliation.  We want to bargain, period,” Larry Rousseau, PSAC’s regional executive vice-president for the national capital region, told Hyperallergic. “We had scheduled with the Gallery two weeks of talks in September. On the very first day, they informed us that they were applying for Conciliation and called off the rest of the two weeks scheduled. We believe that the only legal point for management applying for Conciliation is so that they can legally lockout PSAC members on December 10th or later, if they wish.”

The museum workers subsequently applied for an extension of the conciliation process, which would allow negotiations to continue if necessary, thus avoiding a lockout scenario, but their request was denied by the National Gallery’s management. Management and members of the union are due to meet again on November 5.

“On the issue of what we hope will come out of our one day this week of talks with the Gallery is that they remove the threat of lockout and bargain in an atmosphere of co-operation,” Rousseau added. “Of course, we hope that the parties will move closer to a fair and just new agreement.”

Museum management, for its part, denies any intention of forcing a lockout.

“The National Gallery of Canada values its workforce and is committed to reach negotiated and mutually acceptable collective agreements with its unions,” the Gallery’s chief of strategic communications, Yves St-Onge, told Hyperallergic in a statement. “A lockout is not part of our plans. This perspective was clearly communicated to the union representatives and continues to inspire our approach at the negotiating table. Conciliated negotiations continue. The next session will take place on November 5th. The Gallery hopes that the conciliator’s contribution will bring us closer to a negotiated agreement.”

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...