CNE worker lockout

Worker lockout could put a damper on the CNE this year

With less than a month to go before the launch of 2018's Canadian National Exhibition, all of the venue's skilled technical workers have been locked out amidst ongoing labour disputes.

What this means is that guests could forced to cross picket lines in order to attend the CNE this year.

IATSE Local 58 is the the union that represents workers with technical and staging expertise for events in venues at Exhibition Place, including the Enercare Centre, BMO Field, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Liberty Grand, among others.

They say that the city-owned Exhibition Place's Board of Governors locked them out of their jobs at 12:01 a.m. this morning after months of negotiations for a new collective agreement.

"The safety of all events at Exhibition Place will be compromised by companies bringing in less skilled workers to set up and supervise events," reads a press release issued by IATSE on Friday.

"The plan is being driven by the Mayor's office, to the benefit of the major corporations, such as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment,  that mount events at venues on Exhibition Place."

IATSE says that Exhibiton Place has asked union members to stop picketing until after the CNE, which will run this year from August 17 until September 3.

"That's not going to happen," says Local 58 President Justin Antheunis. 

"We are not going to surrender our rights under the law and jeopardize the safety of Torontonians and other visitors to Exhibition Place as a favour to Tory's friends. Nor will we put visitors at risk. We will not be pushed around."

The Canadian National Exhibition Association said in a statement that it is "disappointed by the recent developments in the collective bargaining discussions between Exhibition Place and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE)."

"The CNEA is focused on ensuring that the 2018 CNE is our best fair yet, and we encourage all parties to return to the table and resolve these issues through collective bargaining," the organization wrote. 

"To respect the process, we do not have any further comment on the lockout at this time.  We are concentrating on planning our great end-of-summer celebratory tradition, which opens August 17th."

Mayor John Tory, for his part, told reporters on Thursday that "The Ex is not in any way in jeopardy."

When asked about the potential for a worker strike, Tory said that the Exhibition Place Board has "contingency plans for any eventuality."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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