IATSE, Mirvish return to bargaining table

Local 822 voted to go on strike; aiming to close wage gap

TORONTO – IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) and Toronto theatre producer Mirvish Productions are headed back to the bargaining table under the cloud of a strike threat.

Earlier this week, IATSE Local 822, representing mostly women in the wardrobe, hair and makeup departments at Mirvish's Toronto stage productions, overwhelmingly gave their union a strike vote (HR, July 29).

A spokesman for Mirvish Productions said IATSE proposed Aug. 9 for a return to the negotiating table, which the stage producer has agreed to.

Final confirmation was being hammered out Friday.

A threatened strike would shut down four of Toronto's largest theatres, including the Princess of Wales and the Royal Alexandra.

There is also agreement that Local 822 will not strike and Mirvish Productions will not lock out IATSE members while negotiations continue.

The issues on the table relate to IATSE looking to close an apparent wage gap among women and men working in Toronto theatres.

Mirvish Productions, making its first comments on on-going negotiations with the IATSE local after a strike threat was made public, denied the company discriminates on gender, adding that it pays women and men the same money for the same work.

Canada's largest theatre producer contends that, historically, women make up the bulk of wardrobe, hair and makeup departments because female actresses frown upon being helped into and out of their dresses by men.

"This practice, which is outside of the control of the company, has skewed the gender of Local 822's membership," Mirvish said in a statement.

The stage producer said the lowest hourly waged member of Local 822 working in its three largest theatres make $35.65 an hour, and has been offered a 9.5% to 11.5% wage increase over four years.

Even though Mirvish Production disagrees with IATSE's claim that it has breached Ontario's pay equity laws, the producer said it is prepared to "discuss" a pay equity plan with IATSE Local 822.

Representatives of the North American stagehands union were not available for comment at press time.