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The museum, which employees about 500 people, is still negotiating the layoffs with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

Faced with no ticket revenue because of the coronavirus crisis, the Royal Ontario Museum will lay off half its full-time staff at the end of the week and is putting the other half on reduced hours.

In a statement provided to The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, ROM director Josh Basseches said the museum is just completing negotiations with its unions to manage the layoffs and cuts.

“Our intention is to ensure the burden of these short-term measures is shared across the museum,” he said. “With this in mind, staff whose work is critical to near-term, high-priority projects will continue to work through this period but on a reduced work schedule and with a reduction in pay.

"Employees whose work can be temporarily deferred will be placed on temporary declared emergency leave to access government programs, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).”

The reduced work schedule will offer the employees 80 per cent of their pay for a four-day week. Meanwhile, part-time front-of-house workers who oversee areas such as the box office and coat check are also being laid off.

The museum, which employees about 500 people, is still negotiating the layoffs with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents 323 full-time and part-time workers including box-office staff, exhibit designers, technicians, researchers and educators. It has completed negotiations with the ROM Curatorial Association and the Service Employees International Union, which represents its security guards and maintenance staff.

“All the messaging has been: ‘We are all in this together; we are going to figure it out together,' ” said Katherine Dunnell, president of OPSEU Local 543 at the museum and a technician in the geology and mineralogy department.

“We are dealing with a highly involved work force. Having to close is a blow to everyone.”

She praised the museum for its graciousness in paying temporary staff, who had been hired to cover March break, up to April 10.

The ROM was forced to close March 14 on the eve of the school holiday, traditionally one of the busiest weeks of the year at the Toronto institution best known for its dinosaurs, its bat cave and a prize selection of Chinese art. With a collection of 13 million art objects, artifacts and scientific specimens, the ROM received 1.3 million visits last year; alongside the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., it is the most visited museum in Canada.

The museum is officially closed to the end of April and has not said publicly how long it expects to extend that closure.

“Our goal is to … reopen the ROM as soon as it is safe, and to get people fully back to work again as soon as possible,” Basseches said.

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