4 unions sign Convention Center deal

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May 6, 2014 2:08:17 PM PDT
Four of the six unions working at the Pennsylvania Convention Center have signed a new deal, called a 'Customer Satisfaction Agreement.'

Convention Center and tourism industry officials say it is a huge turning point for the city of Philadelphia.

"With the four unions we do have signatory to the contract, we'll be able to operate the center very efficiently," said John McNichol of the Pa. Convention Center.

The Carpenters and Teamsters have rejected the agreement.

Still, on Tuesday, the Convention Center board voted to impose the agreement and stage events without the Carpenters and Teamsters.

The new work rules allow conventioneers more leeway in setting up and tearing down their exhibits.

"So, in the past things that you would be able to do in your own home with a small electric screwdriver and a stepladder, you couldn't do in the Convention Center, in your booth. Now, under this new deal, you can actually do that," said McNichol.

The folks who've been trying to book the Convention Center say the new agreement makes their job a lot easier.

Union hassles and costs have been driving away convention business for years. It's hoped the new agreement will make the Convention Center cost-competitive and customer-friendly.

"You cannot sustain a business with those kinds of losses. You've got to take a corrective to make us competitive and make us deliver a great customer experience," said Jack Ferguson of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Union hassles have led to the cancellation of $1.3-billion worth of business between 2014 and 2017. Philadelphia got a bad rap and word got around.

On Tuesday, the tourism industry staged a photo shoot in front of the Convention Center promoting Philadelphia hospitality.

It's a $10 billon dollar industry supporting 90,000 jobs in the region, and much of it is dependent on a healthy and happy convention center.

"The customer loves Philadelphia, but they're not whiling to be exorbitant costs and have hassles in their lives," Ferguson said.

The Carpenters and the Teamsters have two choices now. Either sign on to the new agreement, or go looking for work elsewhere. They have not responded to our requests for comment.

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