May 26, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival regrettably finds itself in difficult labour negotiations with a possible strike by its call-centre staff as it heads into its 60th season.
The Festival wishes to inform the public that contingency plans are in place to ensure a pleasant patron experience in the event of a strike.
The Festival is confident that these plans will ensure theatregoers will not be unduly inconvenienced if a strike should occur. It recognizes, however, that picket lines may be present on public property adjacent to Festival venues.
There has never been a strike in the Festival’s 59-year history and with negotiations continuing, it is hoped that a resolution will be reached without job action.
The affected employees are in the Festival’s call centre, a group of 53 people who recently joined IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. As the call centre handles the sale of tickets, the Festival suggests that patrons purchase tickets online at www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com, though phone lines will remain open for the duration of any labour disruption.
Call-centre staff have been in a legal strike position since 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 25.
Negotiations have focused on two major issues: wages and contracting out. The union is currently demanding wage increases of 12% over two years, down from an original demand of 36%.
The Festival is offering 5% over two years, in keeping with wage increases in other Festival departments and in keeping with recent private-sector wage settlements, which have averaged 1.5% to 2.5% per year.
The union has demanded that the Festival guarantee that call-centre work will never be contracted out.
The Festival has offered to include a statement confirming that it has no intention of contracting out call-centre work for the duration of the contract. Further, should contracting out become necessary for effective operations, it would give workers no less than six months’ notice.
Despite a trend towards outsourcing call-centre work, the Festival sees great value in maintaining an in-house call centre. Since 2005, the Festival has invested more than $3 million in call-centre renovations, technology, training and staff development.
Call-centre staff have always been valued employees and have been remunerated as such. In 2000, a full pay-policy study was conducted by the Festival and it confirmed that call-centre wages were more than 25% above the industry standard.
The Festival’s 2012 season opens officially on Monday, May 28, with a performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Five more productions will open throughout the week, with further openings occurring in July and August.