Cineplex projectionists OK pact

TORONTO — Projectionists working for Cineplex Odeon Corp. in Ontario have ratified a new contract, ending a 20-week lockout.

Members of IATSE Local 173 voted 97-70 over the weekend to accept a two-year contract offer and are expected to be back on the job March 18. Toronto-based Cineplex locked out the projectionists Oct. 27. Their last contract expired in January 1996.

The terms of the new contract affect about 90 projectionists, although more were eligible to vote because of a hiring-hall arrangement that allows those working for competing companies to vote on the others’ contracts.

“We are pleased that the dispute is now officially over,” Cineplex president Allen Karp said.

While relieved that the dispute has ended, union officials had little else to be pleased about. Under the new contract, pay has been slashed to a range of C$24,000 to C$29,000 ($17,520 to $21,170) from $C40,000 to C$50,000 ($29,200 to $36,500). The no-nonsense terms of the deal eliminate 47 jobs, a measure mitigated somewhat by provisions that give displaced workers a severance package and access to a retraining fund. The new contract also assigns projectionists cleaning and maintenance work and gives theater managers the right to operate projection equipment when the theaters are not busy.

Although the contract covers most projectionists in Ontario, the labor dispute continues in several cities in the province.

Famous Players Ltd., the only other national exhibition company in Canada, is scheduled to begin negotiations on a new contract with its projectionists this summer and has served notice that it considers the Cineplex Odeon deal to be a precedent.

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