Egg Films, union dispute on display in downtown Halifax


People shouted and hurled insults at each other as an ongoing dispute between Egg Films Inc. and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees premiered Tuesday on Halifax’s Lower Water Street.

Egg Films, also known as Egg Studios, produces television commercials. It locked out unionized film technicians, members of Local 849, in March.

The company and union have been waging a heated social media battle since then, but at lunch hour Tuesday, the confrontation spilled onto Halifax streets.

About 200 IATSE representatives from across North America, attending a union board meeting at the Westin Nova Scotian, filed out of the hotel with signs and marched in protest to the sidewalk in front of Egg’s office on Lower Water Street.

Meanwhile, Egg co-owners Sara Thomas and Mike Hachey and about two dozen employees and supporters had already been staging their own protest against the union in front of the Westin. Egg representatives then also walked down to Lower Water Street, where a verbal exchange between the two sides took place on the sidewalk.

Emotions ran high for about a half-hour, but the situation calmed down after several police officers showed up and a heavy shower dampened the crowd.

Hachey said he is fed up. The small company is being bullied and losing work because of the union, he said

“They have been putting out misleading, defamatory statements against Egg and have been bullying a lot of workers and charities that we support. They are bullying our clients, writing them letters saying we are an unfair employer.

“Some Toronto companies aren’t coming here to shoot anymore, and they blatantly said it is too hostile (here) to come in and shoot commercials. We are losing work, our competitors are losing work, and it has been ongoing, and enough is enough.”

However, the union local — representing 18 categories of film technicians, including light, sound, props, hair and makeup, and transport — has a different story.

“We have played by the rules, and they seem to be trying to get people to think that we didn’t,” said Gary Vermeir, the local’s business agent.

“They have launched a very personal, social media, cyberbullying campaign.”

There are about 350 members in the local who are freelancers for various film projects. Not all have worked for Egg.

The lockout came on the heels of Egg fighting against the unionization at the Nova Scotia Labour Board and in court.

In April 2014, the province’s top court tossed Egg Film’s bid to stop Local 849 from certifying the technicians. A one-year contract for technicians, imposed by the board, expired last fall.

“The employer has spent so much unnecessary money on legal fees, fighting, instead of sitting down and bargaining with us  over basic things like workers compensation and health benefits,” Vermeir said

Since the lockout, Egg has been using non-union technician crews for its shoots.

Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, said the company is showing no regard for the law.

“We’ve got an employer that is flouting the labour laws of the province. If workers did that, there would be court injunctions,” he said.

“There was a union certified there, and the employer has gone around it to hire others.”

However, Thomas and Hachey said they have rights, too, and are trying to survive in what is an increasingly difficult climate.

“The union representatives, bear in mind, they failed to negotiate a contract that could work for Egg and our business, “said Thomas.

Several Egg employees and supporters claimed that most protesters Tuesday were from outside Nova Scotia and that few local film technicians walked among them.

Vermeir said some locked-out workers did participate. Others couldn’t make it because they had work on the set of a local film project, he said.

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