St. Lawrence Centre workers locked out by management; is this a new era in Toronto labour relations?
We hate to break this news to our gentle readers, but apparently Rob Ford doesn’t like unions. He really, really doesn’t like them. Nor do many of his allies on council, even the folks who used to run a union, like Giorgio Mammoliti. So, although there’s no reason to think that the mayor’s office is involved in this particular blow-up, we can’t help but think this is a sign of things to come. The blow-up in question? Technical workers at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts (owned by the city) have been locked out by management.
“The decision to lockout our colleagues at IATSE Local 58 is one we do not take lightly,” Jim Roe, general manager of the St. Lawrence Centre, said in a press release Saturday. “In order to ensure the services we offer Toronto’s artistic community stay accessible and affordable, and in keeping with the direction from the City of Toronto to reduce costs and expenses, we are left with no other option.”
The board of directors and management at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts say they have identified several key areas in the current contract that must be addressed in any new deal, including clauses that require stage technicians to be paid for hours not being worked.
IATSE has, oddly enough, been pretty quiet about the lockout, in contrast with previous labour disruptions in this city. The bigger reason all this is worth pointing out is that the mayor seems to be gearing up for a big fight with Toronto’s public unions next year, telling Sun News last week that “we’re not going to let the unions hold us hostage…don’t put a gun to our head.” Of course, the main two tactics a manager (like the city) can use to try and stave off a strike are a lockout like the one at the St. Lawrence Centre, or hiring replacement workers—something that would have been unthinkable during the Miller years but is not uncommon in other jurisdictions. During its 2009 municipal strike, Windsor brought in replacement workers. So anything might be possible in Toronto’s brave new era of labour relations.