Three Clarington Museums and Archives’ locations could have their doors closed to visitors and school groups later this month if the museum and the union representing its employees cannot reach an agreement in recent contract negotiations.
“It’s really too bad that it has come to this,” said Roberta Stasyszyn, a museum interpreter and spokesperson for Local 74 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 74), “with students back at school and people returning from summer holidays, fall is a really important time for the museum. We love working here and being part of the community, which is why we are so disappointed at the lack of respect we are being shown by our employer.”
Members of CUPE 74 recently voted unanimously to take strike action if the museum continues to insist on a contract that classifies employees as occasional workers. “We work hard, we take pride in our museum, and we feel that we make a positive contribution to this community. Many of us have worked here for years,” said Stasyszyn, “so it is insulting when our employer insists on a contract that classifies us as occasional workers. We are not occasional workers, we are employees of the museum.”
These negotiations are an example of the growing threat of precarious work in our communities. Precarious work refers to non-standard employment that is insecure and unstable, something Stasyszyn says shouldn’t be the case for any workers. “A lot of people are facing a similar situation. Employers don’t want to recognize workers as employees so that they can avoid guaranteeing us job security or stable shifts. Our museum should be trying to make this type of employment a thing of the past instead of promoting it. Most of us are working two or three jobs just to get by.”
A strike could take place as early as September 24, and would impact the Bowmanville Museum, the Clark Museum and the Sarah Jane Williams Heritage Centre, but Stasyszyn is holding out hope that a deal can still be reached before a strike becomes necessary.
“We believe that a deal is possible,” Stasyszyn continued, “what we are asking for isn’t unreasonable, it simply involves being recognized for the work that we do. Our priority is to get a fair deal and keep the museum doors open this fall.”
Museum employees and supporters will be on King Street (between Silver and Temperance) in downtown Bowmanville on Saturday, September 16, beginning at 11:00 a.m., to hand out information and speak to members of the community.