Award-winning acapella group latest act refusing to cross picket line at E.A. Rawlinson Centre

The E.A. Rawlinson Centre. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Award-winning acapella group Countermeasure are the latest act refusing to cross the picket line at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.

Instead, the 11-member group will perform at the Union Centre in Prince Albert on Nov. 9, the same day they were scheduled to perform at the Rawlinson.

“Like other artists, we could have just cancelled,” Countermeasures manager Patricia Silver said in an interview with the Herald. “Obviously, we’re not able to cross the picket line and other artists are cancelling. This is too important.”

Countermeasures has a strong local connection thanks to composer, producer, and group co-founder Aaron Jensen, who grew up in Prince Albert. Silver said Jensen and other group members were looking forward to the trip, so they wanted to find a way to make things work.

“This is Aaron’s home town, and we wanted to be there for the community,” Silver said. “It was really important for everyone to come back to Prince Albert and just reconnect with friends and family. We just found a different way to do it.”

City of Prince Albert inside workers have been on strike for eight weeks while their union, CUPE 882, negotiates with the City. CUPE 882 vice-president Cara Stelmaschuk said it’s encouraging to see musical acts like Countermeasure find alternatives so they don’t have the cross the picket line.

“It was really nice to have their manager reach out to let us know that their members didn’t want to cross the picket line,” she said. “It’s a hard conversation to have.”

Stelmaschuk said many of the acts performing at the Rawlinson can’t afford to cancel a show for economic reasons. She worries too many groups aren’t getting enough advanced notice about the strike, putting them in a difficult position.

“It’s a pressure point for any touring artist, especially if you’re working on a grant,” she explained.

CUPE 882 has offered the Union Centre as an alternative. Stelmaschuk said two union technicians will also provide assistance for the show.

Union members began a work to rule action in August, followed by a full strike declaration on Sept. 11. Since then, live sketch comedy show Middle Raged, and theatre company Bear Grease have postponed shows at the Rawlinson Centre to avoid crossing the picket line.

Stelmaschuk said it’s an “uplifting thing to have happen.”

Union members have already voted down three contract proposals. Stelmaschuk said there is no date set for further negotiations, but she’s optimistic a deal will get done.

“If I wasn’t I couldn’t come here every day,” she said. “We are optimistic that something will break, something will happen, and hopefully it’s just under both parties’ terms that something comes to pass and that everyone can at least have their say and be a part of whatever comes out of all of this, because that’s what should have happened in the beginning.”

See Tuesday’s Arts section for a full preview of Thursday’s Countermeasure Show.

The next E.A. Rawlinson Show is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 5 when the Prince Albert Country Music Association hosts their ‘Top Hits’ show at 2 p.m.

–with files from Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald