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Union to picket at CNE amid lockout with Exhibition Place

Last Updated Aug 13, 2018 at 2:20 pm EST

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 58 members rally outside Toronto City Hall on Aug. 13, 2018. CITYNEWS/Craig Wadman

The union representing stagehands locked out by Exhibition Place says it plans to picket outside the CNE when it opens on Friday.

“We’re going to be trying to get our message across,” said International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 58 president Justin Antheunis at a rally outside City Hall on Monday.

The lockout affecting 400 workers happened on July 20, and came after months of negotiations for a new collective agreement.

The workers are responsible for lighting, sound, and construction. The affected venues include BMO Field, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Coca Cola Coliseum, Enercare Centre and the Liberty Grand.

Earlier in the day, the union said in a release that “replacement workers” are being brought in from Quebec and other place including the U.S.

“The CNE … has brought in labour from Quebec to do the work of Local 58, which is saddening to us because Local 58 has been in this city over 100 years now and we’ve been working down at the CNE since World War II. This is our work and this is the work that we love to do,” Antheunis said.

The replacement workers will have to set up a number of venues, including stages for the CNE bandshell concerts.

“Few, if any, of these replacements have ever worked at Exhibition Place. The likelihood of misjudgment and mistakes are high, especially from a hastily assembled group just brought in and who are racing around the clock to meet very tight deadlines,” the union said in a release.

Antheunis said the outstanding issue between the union and Exhibition Place is management’s ability to contract out their work.

However, Coun. Mark Grimes, who is the chair of the Exhibition Place, claims the union is not willing to speak to issues that are important to the venue.

“The CNE is ramping up and getting ready to open … they’re stirring things up. But again, our position is that we want a fair, negotiated settlement with the union,” Grimes said.

“Our business has changed but the collective agreement has not changed. And it is important that we do change these agreements to reflect our business at Exhibition Place. We have to be competitive not only in the City of Toronto but globally.”

In addition to locking out the workers, Exhibition Place’s negotiating team, led by a city labour relations official, rejected binding arbitration.