TORONTO—Marchers in Toronto's annual Labour Day parade broke tradition yesterday, opting not to end the procession at Exhibition Place to show solidarity with stagehands who have been locked out of the venue since July.
“We're not going to cross that picket line,” stressed Naureen Rizvi, Unifor's regional director for Ontario.
“We're going to support the workers by not taking our members through that picket line and [not] having them go to the Ex like we normally do,”
Exhibition Place's board of directors and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 58, which represents about 400 workers, said talks over the weekend broke down.
Both sides of the negotiations said they were unsuccessful after a 12-hour meeting on Saturday that focused on the locked-out employees' contract.
Negotiations were to resume today—the day after the fair ends.
The employees were locked out on July 20, and the union said the workers have been without a contract since December.
Despite the ongoing dispute and change in parade route, officials with the Canadian National Exhibition struck an optimistic tone.
“Monday is a very big day for us. We attract audiences from across the spectrum,” said John Peco, chief officer, business development and innovation of the CNE association.
“Traditionally the Labour Day parade does terminate at the fairgrounds, so we're quite optimistic that many of those people will return to the fair following the parade with their friends and family,” he added.
But Rizvi said Unifor members rented boats at the city's habourfront, and other unions in the march planned to host barbecues instead of going to the fair.
Before the start of the march, Unifor president Jerry Dias spoke to attendees about the importance of fair wages and work environments.
“As we march together, I want you to think about solidarity,” he said.
“I want you to think about our union moving forward.”
Justin Antheunis, president of IATSE Local 58, said he's thankful for the support from the Labour Day marchers.
“The solidarity that Local 58 has seen from the entire labour movement, not just in Toronto but across the country, has been fantastic and it means a lot to us that they're not going to cross the picket line,” he added.