As the CNE prepares for its big opening day, the union that represents its stagecraft workers remain on strike.
According to IATSE Local 58, Major John Tory has refused to return to the bargaining table and put an end to the “management-imposed” lockout before Friday’s opening day.
“We did not cause this work stoppage and we are available around the clock to try to end it,” says Justin Antheunis, President of IATSE Local 58, in a statement on Monday.
“Mayor Tory is using the CNE as hostage in a transparent attempt to display his toughness against organized labour in the run-up to the municipal election in October. His refusal to respond to our openness to getting back to work is either cynical or cowardly, take your pick.”
On July 20, around 400 members of Local 58 were ordered off their jobs by the Exhibition Place Board of Governors, all of whom are appointed by the Mayor.
The lockout, which also affects BMO Field, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Coca-Cola Coliseum, Enercare Centre, and the Liberty Grand, stopped negotiations, which had begun months prior, according to the Union.
They state that the central issue in the dispute is management’s demand that the union surrender its “longstanding contractual relationship with Exhibition Place as the main provider of stagecraft skills such as construction, lighting, sound, special effects and rigging.”
“Attempts are now underway to bring in ‘replacement workers’ from Quebec and elsewhere, including the United States. Few, if any, of these replacements have ever worked at Exhibition Place,” stated a Union release. “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.”
Last year, over 1.5 million visitors visited the CNE, generating more than $170 million for the city and province.
Antheunis said bringing in a brand new workforce from Quebec and the US to replace the experienced and skilled Local 58 members is problematic and risky.
“Our members are among the best-trained stagecraft professionals on the continent and their skills are continuously upgraded with technological advances in the industry,” he said.
“We are ready to help make the CNE a success once again and will return to the bargaining table as soon as we are asked and the lockout ends.”
The CNE Association said that it is disappointed by the current labour dispute between the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place and IATSE Local 58.
“As tenants of Exhibition Place, the CNEA has no formal role in the labour dispute, or on the decision to lock out workers. In fact, we have actively and repeatedly encouraged both sides to return to the bargaining table,” said the Association in a statement.
And despite the ongoing dispute, the CNEA says that preparations are well underway for the 2018 season.
“As always, we ensure all workers are well qualified and trained to meet the requirements of the Employment Standards Act. In addition, we work with all regulators to uphold the highest safety standards,” they said.
“As Canada’s largest fair, employing over 5,000 staff and contributing $128 million dollars to the local economy, we are excited for the 2018 edition of CNE. All of us at the CNEA are looking forward to opening our gates to visitors on Opening Day, August 17.”