Strike threatens to disrupt TIFF event

Bell Lightbox dedication located next door to strike location

TORONTO -- Talk about problem neighbors.

The Toronto International Film Festival's dedication of Bell Lightbox Sunday threatens to be disrupted by a noisy one-day strike at the next-door Hyatt Regency, the festival's host hotel.

Just as a ribbon at Bell Lightbox on King Street is to be cut at noon by festival toppers and Hollywood director Ivan Reitman, striking hotel workers plan an "alternative red carpet," to be spread out on the picket line in front of the Hyatt Regency on King Street.

Unite Here Local 75, which called Hyatt workers out for one day from midnight Saturday, said its members will also invite Bell Lightbox revelers one block over to "take your photo with a local celebrity: a Hyatt Striker!"

This is all planned just as TIFF holds a free block party outside Bell Ligthbox to launch the festival's new year-round home built on downtown Toronto land once owned, and generously contributed, by Ivan Reitman and his family.

"As TIFF celebrates the new Bell Lightbox with a street party for Torontonians, and the Hyatt boosts its profits with film guests this week, we continue to be treated like second-class citizens by the Hyatt owners," Althea Porter-Harvey, a hotel room attendant said in a statement released by Unite Here Local 75.

"We deserve better than that. We're joining the street party today," she added.

Sunday's Hyatt Regency one-day strike is the third in as many days as TIFF enters its first weekend.

The first on Friday at the Royal York Hotel on Front Street was followed by a second on Saturday at the Holiday Inn on King Street.

All three strikes include picketing hotel workers chanting and beating drums to gain attention and secure leverage at the bargaining table where United Here and management for the Westmount hotel chain have bargained without success on a new contract deal since August 9.

The Hyatt Regency hotel faced a similar one-day strike on September 3, just as the Toronto festival was set to get underway.

The rolling hotel strikes during TIFF, while disrupting visiting film industry players and the Toronto festival, has the support of IATSE Local 873 and ACTRA, Canada's actors union.

"We are going to continue supporting these workers until they get a fair contract." ACTRA Toronto president Heather Allin said Sunday.

Besides a ribbon-cutting on Sunday for Bell Lightbox, festival organizers plan a free block party from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., to include concert performances, free food and a movie star look-alike contest.
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