Negotiations between Exhibition Place management and a union representing nearly 400 locked out technical and staging staff are set to resume soon.

Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 58 have been locked out since late July.

The workers typically help set up for the annual Canadian National Exhibition but due to the labour dispute temporary staff were brought in to complete much of that work for this year’s fair, a decision that the union has said was made at the expense of safety.

Coun. Mark Grimes, who is the chair of the exhibition place board, told CP24 on Thursday that IATSE Local 58 has agreed to resume negotiations and the aim is for both sides to get back to the table “as soon as possible.”

He said that while a mediator was previously brought in to help move negotiations along, little progress has been made to date.

IATSE Local 58 has previously said that the main issue of contention in negotiations is management’s request that it be allowed to hire non-unionized members for some jobs.

Grimes, however, told CP24 that the Exhibition Place board just wants a collective agreement that recognizes the shift in business at the sprawling facility, which includes BMO Field, Enercare Centre and several other venues.

“We are in a different place now. The IATSE union came to be in the 1930’s and 1940’s when the grandstand was there, Bob Hope would come, the Beach Boys would come, but our business has changed. We are into fairs, meetings, events and the collective agreement does not reflect that,” Grimes said.

CNE attendance down amid labour stoppage

The news of the planned resumption of negotiations comes one day after the chief executive officer of the CNE, Virginia Ludy, penned a letter to Mayor John Tory and members of council advising them that the ongoing labour dispute could result in a loss of $1.5 million at this year’s fair.

Ludy told CP24 on Wednesday that the CNE has seen a “significant decrease in revenue at the gate” despite an increase in its advertising budget.

She said that even with two rain days taken out, the CNE has still seen its attendance plummet from previous years,

“The evidence shows that the picketing at our gates, sustained negative social media activities of IATSE and the resulting media coverage is discouraging ticket sales. It is not an issue of programming,” Ludy said in the letter.

Speaking with CP24 Grimes said that while he is sensitive to some of the challenges faced by the CNE, there is no “good time” for a labour stoppage.

He said that there are a number of issues that the board is committed to “standing firm” on, though he did not reveal those exact issues.

“I hope the union would understand that the more competitive we are in the marketplace the more work there is for their members,” he said.

IATSE Local 58 has been without a contract since December.