Up until now, I’ve not been affected a great deal by the strike by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (or CUPE). Yes, the parks around town, including the one directly behind our building, are looking pretty shabby. The Public Library and all of the branches in town have been closed for ages. On some of the warmer days of summer, the trash that hadn’t been picked up did smell pretty bad, but our condo building has private pickup. They had to put a lock on the room with the dumpsters, as people from outside the complex had been sneaking in and leaving their trash there as well. While all of these little annoyances got me a little mad (and a little sad) as I’d shake my head in disbelief, because the city of Vancouver and the union just can’t seem to work out their differences the way every other city in the Lower Mainland has (eventually). Tonight, the situation reached a new low.
Due to a brief stint as a music critic for The Georgia Straight, I got on the mailing lists for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The VSO normally performs at The Orpheum Theatre, a charming, if a little dated (circa 1930s and 1970s, depending on which part of the building you are looking at) Concert Hall on Granville Street, well known to many people in the city. What those people may not know is the that the Orpheum is a Union hall.
In my In-Box, I read an email from the Press Office of the Vancouver Symphony, consisting the following:
VSO Concerts Affected by CUPE Strike
Vancouver, BC – Announcements regarding upcoming VSO performances scheduled for the Orpheum:
The Classical Mystery Tour concert featuring the music of the Beatles with the VSO, originally scheduled for Wednesday, October 3rd at the Orpheum has been canceled. Ticket buyers are asked to call Ticketmaster or VSO Customer Service for details.
The Tea & Trumpets concert of Thursday, October 4th at the Orpheum has been rescheduled to Thursday, April 10th, 2pm, at the Orpheum. October 4th tickets will be honoured for the April 10th date.
The VSO Pops concerts of Friday & Saturday, October 5th & 6th at the Orpheum have been canceled. An announcement about possible rescheduling of these performances will be forthcoming. We urge ticket buyers to hold on to their Friday/Saturday tickets pending an announcement of a possible rescheduling.
Before and during the VSO’s Opening Weekend concerts, the conduct of CUPE members on picket lines at the Orpheum resulted in violent and obstructive behaviour – some of which required police action to mitigate – which, together with other conduct of picketers, has led to the VSO being strongly concerned for the safety and welfare of our customers, musicians, administrative staff, and volunteers.
Despite a decision reached Wednesday, September 27th by the Labour Relations Board, which issued an interim order granting third party picketing relief at the stage door of the Orpheum Theatre, giving the VSO the right under the Labour Code to conduct business at the Orpheum Theatre, we believe that safety is of paramount importance – a belief that has led to the decisions made regarding the above concerts.
Admittedly, I wasn’t planning to go to the Classical Mystery Tour, The Tea & Trumpets concert, or the Pops concerts, but I still feel the sting of these cancellations. Arts organizations in cities (unless they have sizable donors or government subsidies) usually have a hard enough time making ends meet without having to cancel their few money-making operations, like Pops concerts and other less hard-core art/music affairs. I do go to a far less popular series of Contemporary music concerts that that VSO offers at the Roundhouse in Yaletown, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the budget for those events is partially underwritten by the ticket sales from these concerts.
The strike (and who knows what kind of behaviour the email was referring to; I have no idea if patrons for the Symphony’s Opening Night were accosted, threatened or even assaulted by picketers) has hit yet another aspect of life in the city, and in doing so, has hit a bunch of new lows. A few days ago, I found out that the yearly ‘Ghost Train’, a charming evening ride through Stanley Park, mostly for kids and their families was also canceled.
This is getting more and more ridiculous. I don’t even care whose fault it is, who’s intractable and who’s acting like a child; It’s time that the CUPE and the City settle already! Finish it, people.