The exhibit Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul has been on at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, in Ottawa Canada, since October 24. For that entire time nearly 400 workers (including education staff and tour guides) have been on strike.
The news only gets worse.
As Heritage Key has previously reported talks broke down nearly two weeks ago with the union believing a settlement to be impossible. The union wants the museum to agree to binding arbitration. So far the museum has said no.
People who want to see the exhibit have had to cross picket lines to do so and the attendance numbers so far have not been pretty.
It attracted only 7,711 in its first three weeks, whereas the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, in Toronto, attracted more than 18,000 in its first nine days.
Ouch and ouch!
As I am writing this there is news breaking (at 9 pm no less) that the two sides have decided to head back to the bargaining table with a federally appointed mediator. The museum is owned by the federal government and it was cabinet minister Rona Ambrose, the Minister of Labour, who has made the announcement.
“I am pleased that the parties are returning to the negotiating table. Every effort is being made to assist them in reaching a settlement as soon as possible, she said.
It should be emphasized that this is a return to negotiation, NOT binding arbitration.
There has been no reaction from either side about this development yet but that is to be expected given the late time that it was announced.
Government under fire in Parliament over strike
The governing party in Canada (The Conservatives) has been taking a pounding in question period, with opposition MPs demanding the government push harder for a settlement. MP Maria Minna rose in the house and fired thisquestion offto Ambrose yesterday.
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in a letter to the minister, if the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum agree to binding arbitration, the museum workers’ strike will be over, she said.
In the CN strike the minister pressured the union to accept binding arbitration. This strike has gone on far too long and with Christmas coming, the workers want to go back to work.
She continued, I know that the Canadian Labour Congress has spoken to the minister, asking her to put both sides in a room and deal with them. Is the minister prepared to do that?
Mr. Speaker, it is always a difficult decision when workers decide to go on strike, but this is a legal strike and it is the decision of the union, she said.
The union overwhelmingly rejected the latest offer of the employer. Obviously, arbitration is not an option because we need both parties to agree to it. We will continue to urge both of them to come back to the table as soon as possible.
So there we have it.
No binding arbitration, but at least they are talking again. Like all museum lovers I hope for an agreement but Im not getting my hopes up just yet.