Stratford, Ontario – I.A.T.S.E. Local 357 has been representing stagehands at the Stratford Festival in southern Ontario for decades. The festival, which began in 1953, started in a tent and featured only the works of William Shakespeare. Currently, works from classic and contemporary playwrights are shown in the festival’s four separate theatres. These theatres range from 260 to 1,824 seats, with a total capacity for all four of 3,664 seats. The Stratford season now runs for seven months, and in 2004, will be mounting 14 full productions that will run in repertory.
Local 357 recently certified hair, makeup and wig employees at the festival. A representation vote was held on April 14, 2004, and an overwhelming majority of the employees voted in favour of the union. The Board has now released its decision granting the certificate to Local 357, and negotiations for the group are scheduled to begin shortly.
Last spring, the local was successful in organizing a group of drivers employed by the festival and has just completed the negotiation of a first collective agreement. The agreement calls for an increase of 41% to pay rates, retroactive to November of 2003. The new agreement also institutes terms for jury duty and bereavement leaves, and provides for health and pension benefits. Coincidentally, the stagehands concluded the re-negotiation of their agreement on May 18. The contract provides for an 11% increase to wages and benefits over the course of its two-year term.