Locked out stagehands say Exhibition Place Board not interested in negotiations

Union members from IATSE local 58 continue to picket outside Exhibition place. Adam Dabrowski / Global News

The president of the union representing workers locked out of Toronto’s Exhibition Place says planned talks with the venue’s board of governors are now in “jeopardy.”

Justin Antheunis, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 58, issued a statement Saturday morning accusing the board of not being interested in reaching a negotiated settlement.

He said the city walked away from the bargaining table after a 12-hour meeting on Friday, referring to the Exhibition Place’s board of governors, which is made up of a designate for the mayor, four council members and four public appointees, according to its website.

“The ExPlace board of governors is just paying lip service to city council,” Antheunis said in the statement.

“We came back to the table today to try and find a way to end the lockout, to get our members back to work with a fair contract, but the city isn’t interested in reaching a deal.”

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IATSE Local 58 returned to the negotiations ready to bargain, with proposals to modernize and find efficiencies in the contract, he said, claiming the city refused to budge on contracting out language.

The board has said it wants to update the locked-out employees’ contract to reflect what it calls the “highly competitive” marketplace.

“They need to understand that we need to become competitive in a very different market that existed when we signed our labour contract in the 1920s,” said Coun. Justin Di Ciano, vice-chair of the Exhibition Place board of governors in an interview last week.

About 400 stagehands and technical workers employed by Exhibition Place – where the Canadian National Exhibition is a tenant – have been locked out since July 20.

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The labour dispute between the two parties has led to picket lines outside the annual CNE.

READ MORE: CNE projects that it will lose $1.5 million due to labour dispute

Although the picket lines were suspended on Friday amid talks between the parties, Antheunis said workers were back on the picket lines on Saturday morning.

On Wednesday, the CEO of the Canadian National Exhibition said the annual fair taking place in Toronto could lose about $1.5 million due to an ongoing labour dispute that has led to picket lines outside the event grounds.

The board of governors did not respond immediately for comments on Saturday.

The event, founded in 1879, is one of the largest fairs in North America and will run until Sept. 3.

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