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IATSE Winnipeg Chapter Plans Juno Awards Protest

WINNIPEG (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — A local union representing stagehands and technicians in Winnipeg is planning a protest that could include about 1,000 people at what is considered one of the Canadian music industry’s most important annual events.

The local chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) will be protesting outside of the Juno Awards on April 3. The IATSE owns the MTS Centre, the host of the event, who has hired technicians from a non-unionized British Columbia-based company, Nasco Services Inc. The non-unionized workers will cover all events at the center, including the Junos.

"The direction with the Junos is for the protest to take place during the red carpet and during the live tapings," Barny Haines, a spokesman for the union representing the stagehands, told The Globe and Mail. "If we can break the 1,000 or more mark, we'll consider that it was a success." The 220-strong union will be supported at the Junos by a large nurses' union and other groups, he said.

The stagehands have already held two other protests, including one at a recent Hilary Duff concert, and they’ve received a letter of support from the NHL Players’ Association, who are holding a benefit at the Centre on March 25.

The IATSE had laid claim to all events at the old Winnipeg arena since 1955 until the new Centre opened in November of last year. The owners of the new arena decided to award the contract to Nasco instead. Most of the workers Nasco hires are local, but they are paid less than IATSE workers, Haines says. He said his union even offered to match the rival firm's wages but was turned down. Negotiations between the sides have stalled, Haines said.

John Brunton, the show's executive producer, says he hopes the union won't disrupt the show but says the gala will go ahead as planned. "I just think it's really unfortunate for the city of Winnipeg, who tried so, so, hard to put the show on . . . if this becomes the story. It would really be unfortunate for the city if IATSE took the show away from them."

Not only is the union concerned with the loss of jobs for its members, but also about safety issues.

"It's not even open for debate, they're not as experienced as IATSE people," said Haines.

The protest could, at the very least, cast a bit of a pall on an event which was supposed to bring tourism dollars and jobs to the city of Winnipeg, and on CTV, which has been holding the show in different cities across Canada to boost local communities.

The April 3 show will be featuring a tribute to the Winnipeg music scene with performances by Neil Young, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers