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Bono performs with U2 in Mexico in May.Alexandre Meneghini/The Associated Press

The union representing stage workers in Winnipeg has gone to the Manitoba Labour Board over a documentary U2 was shooting in the city last week. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) is upset the Irish rock band used some non-unionized workers for the shoot and has applied to the labour board to have those workers certified.

But while the company hired for the video shoot - Mid Canada Production Services (Midcan) - is named in the labour board application, along with U2's Principle Management, the issue at the heart of this may be the union's long-standing dispute with True North Sports & Entertainment, operator of Winnipeg's Canad Inns Stadium and the MTS Centre, home of the returning NHL franchise.

The dispute dates back to the opening of the MTS Centre and True North's decision to end its contract with IATSE at its venues. The latest eruption occurred in the run-up to U2's Sunday concert at Canad Inns Stadium. According to IATSE Local 63 business agent John Gallagher, his union had an arrangement with concert promoter Live Nation to provide half the labour for the giant show, but that agreement was withdrawn - he says at the request of True North.

"It's union-busting," Gallagher said, noting that unionized crews were used for the U2 360 show in other Canadian cities.

True North on Friday disputed the claim that the agreement was withdrawn at their request. The company said it was its understanding that IATSE declined the offer to supply half the labour for the live show.

The war of words was visible last Saturday, when the union held an information picket outside the documentary shoot at the Burton Cummings Theatre, with about 80 IATSE members outside the venue as the band members arrived separately. "They were shuffled off as quickly as possible," Mr. Gallagher said.

The union felt U2 might take up their cause and go to bat for IATSE, given the band's long-standing record for advocacy. "It just didn't make sense to us: If they're so interested in human rights, why would they prefer a non-union work force? A unionized work force promotes workers' rights."

Midcan owner Wayne Sheldon said he could not comment on the situation, as the union's application is before the labour board, but Donalee Jones, who acted as production manager on the shoot, said the company is a pillar of the local film and television industry and this action could lead Sheldon - who is almost 70 - to simply shut it down, putting people out of work.

"This small local business was essentially just in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Jones, who was hired as a subcontractor by Midcan, which was itself hired by a Los Angeles-based production company. "Midcan is an integral part of the Winnipeg film industry and without Midcan you're putting the whole industry in jeopardy."

She also indicated that the band has taken notice of the action - but not in a good way. "Over the course of the three days that we worked on the documentary, we did establish a bit of a relationship with their tour manager and I think his response basically was we can ignore this and just never return to Manitoba."

In an interview with The Globe, Gallagher spoke at length about the union's concerns over non-unionized crew members being hired for U2's live show, but had very little to say about the documentary shoot. When asked why the union was going after the film shoot, he said, "We wanted to make our point and that was basically that we were given work, it was taken away and there was no explanation."

When pressed about why the union was going after Midcan, but not making a complaint about the stadium show, he said, "It was a decision made that we would be able to catch the band's attention because perhaps they might be the only ones who may care. They were most accessible once we found out they were in town shooting a video."

Editor's note: An earlier online version of this story contained incomplete information. This online version has been updated.