iatse local 58

Toronto takes steps to end lockout of workers at the CNE

Things are heating up at The Ex this week as skilled technical workers remain locked out amidst an ongoing labour dispute between their union and the city.

Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 58, which represents workers with technical and staging expertise, have been picketing outside the city-owned Exhibition Place for almost a month now.

Workers say the venue's Board of Governors locked them out of their jobs on July 19 after months of negotiations for a new collective agreement, and that management has refused to bargain in good faith.

The situation has become significantly more intense on Friday with the launch of 2018's Canadian National Exhibition.

Support for the union's position is growing among members of the public, and many have said on Twitter in recent days that they are choosing to boycott the CNE this year.

This is posing problems for our municipal and provincial governments, as well The Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA), which generates an estimated $93.1 million for the city and $128.3 million for Ontario each year.

"As we have repeatedly warned the Mayor, the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place and City Councillors, this lockout is having a significant negative impact on both attendance and revenues at the 2018 CNE," reads a letter to Mayor John Tory from the CNEA published Tuesday.

"Despite overwhelmingly positive feedback from visitors over our initial few days, we regret to report that our projected losses to-date are in the range of $1.5 million."

The CNEA is calling upon Mayor Tory, the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place and Toronto City Council to "take action by re-engaging with IATSE Local 58."

Like most people, they want to see this dispute resolved so that Toronto can get on with enjoying the annual exhibition.

"We have made three offers directly to IATSE," notes CNE CEO Virginia Ludy. "The most recent, to engage IATSE workers in a direct contractual agreement to provide services directly."

"Although my door is always open, so far, union leadership has declined each of these attempts to resolve this dispute."

In an effort to move things along, 23 members of Toronto City Council signed a petition on Monday to hold a special meeting in which they will be updated on specifics surrounding the labour dispute between IATSE Local 58 and the Exhibition Place Board of Governors.

The meeting started on Tuesday at 2 p.m. but, since the subject matter has been deemed confidential, council is meeting in closed session.

It has yet to be seen what councillors will decide to do for the CNE. 

Some protesters say that the workers hired from out of province to replace them should be banned, and that Exhibition Place should be forced to use only trained workers from IATSE Local 58 for its venues, as it has for the past 60 years.

The CNE, which is a tenant of Exhibition Place, simply wants the fighting to stop and for things to move forward as usual.

"We are also a not-for-profit Agricultural Society which does not receive any government subsidy and we have prepaid Exhibition Place $3.7 million, for expenses related to the 2018 fair," wrote the CNEA in its latter.

"This means that while we are not party to this dispute between labour and employer, our event stands to be even more severely impacted if this situation continues."

"This stalemate cannot continue," reads the letter. "The CNE has only 14 days, including today, to try to recoup our early losses, reverse the negative messages regarding the picketing and put the focus back on the terrific programming on display at this year’s CNE."

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