STRATFORD, ON, June 6 – On July 15, 2011, Local 357 certified the 53 members of the audience development department at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada, who work in the call centre and box office. Some had been Stratford employees for more than twenty years. The Festival, which includes four different theatres, opened its 60th season on May 28. While its primary mandate is to showcase the works of William Shakespeare, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival also showcases a wide variety of theatre, from Greek tragedy to contemporary works. Local 357 has been representing stagehands, scenic carpenters, drivers, hair stylists & makeup artists as well as facilities workers at the Festival for decades.
Negotiations were held for the better part of the year, with over twenty bargaining sessions taking place. Issues surrounded wages and the contracting out of work. It seemed as though the parties had reached an impasse, and although Local 357 and the Festival had never experienced a labour dispute in 59 years, the audience development members of Local 357 were in a legal strike position as of May 25. With picketing scheduled for the Festival’s opening night on Monday, May 28, the parties met over the weekend for a last-ditch bargaining session. On the afternoon of Sunday, May 27, a tentative agreement was reached. The agreement prevents the Festival from contracting out the work of the audience development department and provides for wage increases of 5.5% over the two-year agreement. On June 3, the membership of Local 357 voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement.