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ROM cuts back

November 1st, 2012 · No Comments

Plan includes $3-million cut to staffing costs

By Ryan Saundercook

The Royal Ontario Museum announced in a press release this past July that it would be cutting total salary and benefits costs for its employees by 10 per cent, which amounts to roughly $3 million a year.

Janet Carding, the museum’s CEO and driving force behind the museum’s new strategic plan, said that after a decade or so of major construction projects, such as the Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the museum has worked up a significant debt, which needs to be tackled now.

“We need to manage our expenditure and reduce it right now … We’ve had a very successful philanthropic campaign, and we’ve had very successful changes in terms of visitation, but the museum nevertheless was running an overdraft and had some bills that it needed to pay, and right now we need to become smaller as an organization,” said Carding.

Carding said the changes are largely a part of keeping the museum relevant in a world where mobile internet access has left us “drowning in information.”

“We really need to think, in terms of our plans, about what kind of organization we want to be for the community,” said Carding. “What people are looking for now is not information per se, what they’re looking for is a way to journey through it and learn at their own pace, and particularly find information they can trust. We’re re-orienting ourselves around the idea that our visitors and users might visit us through the doors or might come to us online … It’s really focusing around the user and putting that at the center of the organization.”

However, such a plan won’t come without some sacrifice, and likely won’t be to everyone’s liking.

Rather than simply cutting a specific number of positions, Carding said employees have been offered a voluntary severance package, available until Aug. 31. After this date more steps may need to be taken depending on how many employees take the package.

The press release stated that “Until a final staffing plan is finalized in September 2012, no specific job reductions will be made other than the changes already announced to ROM senior management.”

OPSEU, which represents many of the ROM’s employees, will be meeting with museum representatives on Sep. 4, 2012, and is currently unable to make a comment to the media, said a representative.

Another significant change the museum has made was dropping admission prices late last year, making the ROM more accessible to patrons who may have felt that $24 was too high a price to pay for a visit to the museum.

“We removed the reason not to come by getting the price right, but we then still need to create this sense that the museum is a relevant place for the community, so that’s part of our long-term thinking,” said Carding.

Carding said the combination of a lower admission price and a more user-driven experience will help to drive numbers.

“We need to work hard to maintain and increase our visitation in order to make sure we don’t have less money coming in, and so really focusing on making the museum into what our visitors are interested in, and focusing on how we engage people and build longer term relationships, that is going to be important to our financial viability.”

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