Union threatens to picket VIFF opening party

Vancouver International Film Festival officials may cancel an opening gala event amid union threats of picketing at the party venue.

Hundreds of people had been expected to attend the VIFF event tonight (September 29) at the Rocky Mountaineer station on Cottrell Street following a film screening at the Vogue Theatre.

But Teamsters Local 31, which represents locked-out Rocky Mountaineer workers, has threatened to picket.

“I don’t know what the best thing to do here is frankly. We are prepared to cancel the event but this is not just a decision that I can make alone,” festival director Alan Franey told the Straight by phone.

“I’m still busy gathering facts and points of view, consulting with our board, consulting with many, many different stakeholders.”

Franey indicated a decision will likely be made by early this evening about whether to hold the nighttime party at the Rocky Mountaineer station.

“I think that there’ll be quite a few people that will not want to cross the picket line,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate and it’s not what we’re supposed to be concentrating on on the opening day of the festival….”

Teamsters Local 31 spokesperson Rod Blackburn confirmed the union plans to picket at the station.

“We’re just picketing our employer…. We picket sporadically at three or four different areas,” he told the Straight by phone.

“We are legally picketing our employer that locked us out. And that’s about it. They can do what they want.”

The opening gala is typically attended by members of the film industry, festival sponsors, local politicians, and others.

Franey said he did not know exactly when VIFF secured the Rocky Mountaineer venue but added: “We booked it before the labour dispute.”

Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train tour company that operates in B.C. and Alberta, locked out the 108 onboard attendants in June.

The 2011 Vancouver International Film Festival runs from September 29 to October 14. It is to feature more than 375 films from 75 countries.