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Stagehands locked-out at Exhibition Place

Pam Johnson

July 25, 2018

On July 19, the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place locked out members of stagehands and stage technician’s union, IASTE 58, rather than bargain in good faith. These workers do all of the stage and technical work at Exhibition Place venues including BMO Field, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Coca Cola Coliseum, Enercare Centre, the Liberty Grand and the Medieval Times Restaurant.

Although negotiations have been going on for months, nothing meaningful has been accomplished at the bargaining table. The real agenda, spearheaded by Mayor John Tory, who appoints the members of the Exhibition Place board, is to drive the union out and replace the workers with non-unionized workers at a lower wage. Driving out unionized workers at the Ex also benefits other corporate interests, especially Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, who use venues at the Ex for sporting events and concerts.

John Tory has packed the top of the Exhibition Place board with his right wing cronies including the Chair, Etobicoke councillor Mark Grimes, and Vice Chair Etobicoke Councillor Justin J. Di Ciano—both of whom are currently facing an integrity investigation for colluding with developers in their wards in the last election.

The Ex brought in scabs right away to do IATSE work. Scabs are being paid $16/hour, but the agency who is hiring them is charging the Ex $38/hour, which is more than IATSE members make. So clearly there can be no claim to saving money.

On the first day of the lock out picketers observed scabs unloading equipment in flip flops. So it is clear, too, that Tory and the Ex board have no concern for workers’ safety or the safety of the public. It was lack of proper inspection by a non-union crew that caused the collapse of the stage at the Radiohead concert in 2012 killing a stagehand. 

Stagehands and technicians work on-call shifts at all hours. They are highly skilled at rigging heavy equipment, working with high voltage electricity and they must know the in and outs of the different venues at the Ex. As Local president Justin Antheunis said, "Our skilled members have helped make the events at Exhibition Place successful and safe for nearly a century”.

Exhibition Place asked Local 58 to suspend picketing until after the CNE closes. But as Antheunis says, "That's not going to happen, we are not going to surrender our rights under the law and jeopardize the safety of Torontonians and other visitors to Exhibition Place as a favour to Tory's friends. Nor will we put visitors at risk. We will not be pushed around."

Show your support

1) Respect the picket line. Don’t attend events at the Exhibition Place.

2) Tell John Tory to end the lock out and get back to the table. His phone:416-397-2489 or

3) Visit the picket line. Picketing is happening regularly at the Prince’s Gate entrance to Exhibition Place on Strachan Avenue and the Lakeshore. Find out more details at:

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