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This article was published 1/6/2011 (4051 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Fans still basking in the glow of U2's Winnipeg performance may live to regard May 27, 2011 as a not-so-beautiful day.
The road manager for the world's biggest rock band is threatening never to return to Manitoba after an international stage union chose this province to launch an attempt to certify workers employed by U2's Ireland-based management, as well as Winnipeg's largest film production company.
On Friday, the New York City-based International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, which represents thousands of movie, TV, concert and theatre production workers across Canada and the U.S., began Manitoba Labour Board proceedings to certify employees of both Dublin's U2 Principle Management and Winnipeg's Mid Canada Production Services.
IATSE's move came in the midst of a three-day documentary shoot at Winnipeg's Burton Cummings Theatre. A Los Angeles production company hired Mid Canada to produce the shoot, which supplemented U2 footage from Berlin.
The Winnipeg production used 26 Mid Canada employees, including 12 IATSE members, as well as eight non-unionized Burton Cummings Theatre staff, said Chris McIvor, Mid Canada's operations director.
Other local members of the union -- which has been embroiled in a dispute with concert promoter True North Sports & Entertainment since 2004 -- picketed outside the documentary production. U2 singer Bono, a labour-movement supporter, stopped to chat with some of the protesters.
The labour-certification application that followed the documentary has little to do with Mid Canada, said McIvor, noting his company pays all of its employees above IATSE scale.
"We had three days with U2 and a two-day private concert. Explain to me how the IA crew was not treated well," McIvor said. "This has nothing to do with the shoot. As far as publicity goes, U2 is a big name."
The architect of the certification drive agreed. "We'd prefer it was U2, plainly speaking," said Barny Haines, IATSE's Winnipeg representative. He described the timing of the application as "happenstance, for the most part."
On May 30, the Manitoba Labour Board gave U2 Principle Management two days to submit a list of its production employees, including names, addresses and specific job titles. U2 road manager Jake Berry, who has also worked with the Rolling Stones and Lady Gaga, did not react well, McIvor said.
"His basic response was 'We don't have time to deal with this. We're just going to ignore it. We'll just never step foot in Manitoba again,' " McIvor said.
"I find it peculiar, with respect to U2 and the persona of the band when it comes to human rights," Haines said in response. "I find it questionable for U2 to say it won't return here because of an attempt to exercise the rights Canadians have celebrated for decades."
Mid Canada's McIvor said he is traumatized by the certification attempt because he considers himself a union supporter even though he believes there is not enough film-production work in Winnipeg to support a fully unionized shop. Roughly one quarter of his company's 80 full-time employees are IATSE members. Mid Canada has also done work for Manitoba unions and the Manitoba New Democratic Party.
"I totally understand the need for IA on film shoots. It's a good thing, because they protect film workers. IA is important, but not to the point of choking the industry," McIvor said.
In response to the certification effort, Mid Canada is considering closing up shop or laying off all its production staff and becoming an equipment-rental outlet. It may also fight the certification process.
Haines said McIvor need not worry. "Unions aren't in the business of putting anyone out of business," he said, noting a collective agreement could benefit Mid Canada and its workers.
"Instead of gloom and doom, we should be embracing the optimism so pervasive in Winnipeg right now, with the NHL returning."