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As AGM approaches, VAG director sends out staff memo to rebut union leader’s points

September 27th, 2010 · 18 Comments

As some of you will recall, I wrote a story earlier this summer about the fact that the head of the union that represents Vancouver Art Gallery workers was planning to go to the gallery’s annual general meeting with some resolutions asking for explanations of how the gallery is spending its money. The sore point: While some staff were being laid off, the gallery was running publicity campaigns to generate support for its plan to move to a new site and build a new gallery.

In advance of the meeting, VAG director Kathleen Bartels has sent out this memo to staff.

From:   Kathleen Bartels
Sent:   September 27, 2010 12:41 PM
To:     Staff List
Subject:        All Staff Meeting Follow-up
Dear Staff,

It has been brought to my attention that you have received
communications from CUPE 15 regarding the Gallery and the upcoming
Annual General Meeting.  I feel it necessary to address some of the
issues that have been raised by the Union regarding the Gallery’s
Management and Board and trust that you will understand my reasons for
addressing these.

As per our recent All-Staff meeting, I want to reiterate how proud and
appreciative I am that we were able to deliver another deficit-free
year in 2009/10.  This was as a result of extraordinary efforts by our
staff and Board, particularly in the areas of fundraising and
sponsorship where we saw significant increases from the previous year,
as well as expense reductions in all areas.  As you know, the last two
years have posed many challenges for the profit and not-for-profit
sectors due to the global economic recession which continues to this
day.  Throughout this time, the Gallery has had to make some difficult
decisions to ensure our sustainability, both now and more importantly
for our future.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is a not-for-profit charitable organization.
 While we receive some government funding (approximately 28%), the
majority of our revenues are derived from private sector fundraising
and earned income.  Our Board of Trustees operates under the highest
standards of governance and our fiscal management is overseen by a
Finance and Audit committee of the Board and simultaneously audited
annually by one of the country’s leading accounting firms (KPMG).  As
a registered not-for-profit society and as is the case with most major
Canadian art museums, we are governed by privacy laws pertaining to
the public disclosure of certain financial information, including
salaries.  The Gallery is not a public sector agency, unlike the Royal
B.C. Museum which is a publicly funded Crown Corporation.

There has also been concern raised by CUPE 15 about the Gallery’s
activities and expenditures related to our relocation project.   As I
believe most of you know, all Gallery expenses related to relocation
are funded through a separate and restricted Building Fund that
includes private sector gifts and the $50 million received from the
Province of B.C.  These expenses are all carefully scrutinized by the
Board’s Relocation Committee, as well as through the Gallery’s annual
financial auditing process.  In the case of the full page ad that was
referred to in your Union communications, this was specifically
requested and paid for by a private donor.

I hope that this memo provides you with some additional information
that might be helpful.  I have also recently met with senior

representatives of CUPE 15 and have shared these same concerns.  As
always, your involvement and participation in the Gallery’s success is
very much appreciated by me and by the Board.  Please feel free to
contact me with any questions that you might have.


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