National Gallery of Canada leaves the public in the dark

OTTAWA, Nov. 5 /CNW Telbec/ - The employees of the National Gallery of Canada were distributing flashlights and leaflets to visitors at the entrance of the Gallery during a special open-door event for educators from Quebec and Ontario. The flashlights bear the message: "For the guideless tours at the NGC".

On September 1, 2009, the educators/guides working for the Gallery all received a letter declaring them as "surplus." The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing the Gallery's employees, believes this will impact negatively the teachers who bring students to see the exhibits.

"The teachers and their students will be left in the dark," said Maria Fitzpatrick, the PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President for the National Capital Region. "Most of the educators/guides at the Gallery are artists or art historians with a deep knowledge of the art and they help the visitors acquire a better understanding of the exhibits," Fitzpatrick added.

The PSAC recently obtained under the Access to Information Act an independent study commissioned by the National Gallery that states that the guided tours are one of the most important factors contributing to the gallery's popularity with the public. According to the study, "clearly the tour guide is the greatest single factor in the success of a school tour."

"If that is the case, how can the gallery's management justify laying off all of its educators/guides?" asked Philippe Carpentier, the President of the PSAC Local at the NGC. "The educators/guides are an essential part of the Gallery and letting them go is depriving Canadians of an important cultural resource."

Carpentier also said that this decision will have a very negative impact on the school programs, including discovery tours, workshops, and theme-guided tours.

"By abandoning the guided tours of the exhibits, the gallery's management is reneging on an important part of the gallery's public mandate which is to bring art into the life of Canadians," Carpentier said. "The National Gallery of Canada could be entering a dark era of its history," he concluded.

The PSAC believes that the lay-offs and the manner in which they were conducted clearly violate the collective agreement and has filed grievances against them.

PSAC represents more than 166,000 workers across Canada, primarily in the federal public sector.


For further information: For further information: To arrange media interviews, please call: Alain Cossette, PSAC Communications, (613) 293-9210

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