August 17, 2018 5:36 am
Updated: August 17, 2018 8:52 pm

Locked out workers encourage public not to cross picket lines at CNE

WATCH: The union representing stagehands and technical employees at Toronto's Exhibition Place continued their pickets on Friday as the CNE kicked off, creating delays as the picket line stopped vehicles at entrances for a short period of time.

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The 140th edition of the Canadian National Exhibition officially opened to the public on Friday amid protests from 400 picketing stagehands who remain locked out at Toronto’s Exhibition Place.

“We will be here until the City of Toronto is willing to negotiate the end of the lock out and right now they are not even willing to sit down to the table,” said Justin Antheunis, president of IATSE Local 58.

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Exhibition Place’s board of governors said it decided to lock out the stagehands on July 20 after months of bargaining.

READ MORE: Out-of-province workers brought in at Exhibition Place during lock-out: union

“Our problem isn’t with the CNE. We love the CNE. We’ve worked here from Day 1 doing all of the events, setting it up a week prior. It’s something that is exciting for us,” Cameron Cleland said.

“Unfortunately, it’s Exhibition grounds, who’s the landlord of the grounds, that is holding CNE for ransom and us for ransom, trying to pit us against each other when that is actually not the case.”

WATCH: Doug Ford announces rejuvenation of Ontario Place

Exhibition Place grounds, which is owned by the City of Toronto, recently brought in out-of-province workers to make sure the CNE started on time, the union says.

“I would ask everyone to avoid The Ex. Come walk the line with us,” locked out employee TC Sclocco said.

“Let Mayor Tory and everyone else who is responsible for this nonsense know that you got 400 families that just want to get back to work.”

WATCH: John Tory acknowledges protesters at opening of CNE 

The union says the board of governors “refuses to bargain in good faith” and that its workers will continue to picket through the duration of the CNE if the dispute isn’t resolved.

The board says those hoping to attend shouldn’t worry about those on the picket lines, beyond allowing for a bit of extra time to enter the grounds.

“While we also love the fair, Ex Place, which is our employer down here, has unfairly locked us out,” Sclocco said.

READ MORE: Labour dispute continues with CNE just days away

“We had a contract here for many decades. It expired in December. We kept working because we figured they would sort it out, but come July 20, they locked us out and we want our jobs back.”

The venues affected by the lock out include BMO Field, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Coca Cola Coliseum, Enercare Centre and the Liberty Grand.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, along with Mayor John Tory, attended the opening ceremonies on Friday but did not weigh in on the labour dispute.

“I wish them all the best. They have the right to protest. I wish them all the best,” Ford said. “That’s going to be up to the mayor to take care of. That’s his jurisdiction. Not mine.”

The CNE begins Aug. 17 and runs through Sept. 3.

WATCH: John Tory working together with Doug Ford, shares memories of CNE 

– With a file from Erica Vella and The Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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