ACTRA, producers' groups fail to end strike
TORONTO - A last-ditch effort to end a strike involving 21,000 film, television and radio workers in Canada has failed and now the dispute is heading to court.
The Canadian Film and Television Production Association and its Quebec counterpart, the APFTQ, met Monday with the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists in Montreal, where the two sides tried to hammer out a deal with the help of a mediator. Mary-Ellen Cummings, the vice-chair of the Ontario Labour Board, was brought in as a private facilitator.
The CFTPA said it will ask the Ontario Provincial Court to rule on the legality of the two-week-old strike and on continuation letters the union has signed to allow some productions to continue work despite the strike.
ACTRA said the two parties will be meeting in a Toronto courtroom Tuesday.
"We are very confident of our case,'' said Stephen Waddell, the union's chief negotiator, adding that ACTRA will consider its approach to the dispute in light of the producers' "time-wasting.''
One of the main sticking points is compensation for performances viewed in new and emerging media platforms such as the Internet and cellphone broadcasts.
The producers said they couldn't meet ACTRA's demand that new media fees be raised by 50 per cent. They said they tabled a "generous'' plan that would pay performers when the production is made, when it is used and when it is converted from new media to television or DVD use.
"We came to Montreal to finalize our proposals on both new media and wages and were feeling that we were very close to finding the deal.'' said John Barrack, CFTPA's chief negotiator. "I'm deeply disappointed that ACTRA has taken this opportunity to ask for an unprecedented 50-per-cent increase with regard to its fees on new media production.
"This illustrates the sharp contrast between ACTRA and the other unions and guild in the production sector.''
But Waddell said the producers had "stonewalled'' mediation by refusing to budge from "internet-for-free'' proposals that ACTRA has rejected for the past three months.
"The CFTPA has lost its compass, its common sense and its ability to close a reasonable agreement,'' Waddell said in a statement Tuesday.
"ACTRA did everything we humanly could to bridge the remaining issues. The CFTPA/APFTQ simply kept repeating their positions intransigently, even with the assistance of one of the best mediators in the country."
ACTRA went on strike on Jan. 8 after its members voted 97.6 per cent in favour of a walkout if their demands weren't met. The strike doesn't affect British Columbia, which operates under a separate agreement and where many producers have signed continuation letters with ACTRA.
Some ongoing productions have not been disrupted because of pre-arranged deals the union signed with individual producers to keep those projects afloat. Those producers had to sign on to a five-per-cent wage hike.
At least three large scale U.S. productions have cancelled plans to bring work to Canada due to the prospect of a long strike.
"This labour dispute is incredibly disruptive to the Canadian production community and is affecting the lives of all of those who work in the sector. We are preparing for a very long strike,'' said Julie Patry of the APFTQ.
"There is very little left for us to do, we've played all our cards and will leave this to the courts.''