TORONTO - The trade association that works on behalf of Canadian producers said Wednesday it's "astonished" the union representing artists and performers is appealing an Ontario court's decision to bring in an arbitrator to end a three-week-old strike.

The Canadian Film and Television Production Association was sparring in court last week with the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. The CFTPA argued that ACTRA's strike was illegal and sought an injunction against special deals - set out in "continuation letters" - in which local productions could continue they signed onto a five-per-cent wage hike.

On Tuesday, Justice Sarah Pepall ruled in favour of ACTRA, saying the strike could continue and the continuation letter strategy did not cause "irreparable harm" to the industry. But she agreed to the CFTPA's request that an arbitrator be appointed to bring an end to the strike.

In a release Tuesday, ACTRA said it was considering an appeal because arbitration can be a lengthy process and it urged an end to the producers' "fruitless legal strategies and diversionary tactics."

The CFTPA said Wednesday ACTRA is refusing to enter arbitration because it doesn't want to answer questions about the legality of the strike and the validity of the continuation letters.

"Especially after expressing its concern of wasting time and money with 'fruitless legal strategies,' I fail to see the logic in ACTRA appealing this decision," said John Barrack, the producers' chief negotiator.

"Not only does this action further illustrate ACTRA's total disregard for the instability it has caused within the industry, but it goes one step further in trying to dismantle the (Independent Production Agreement) and prolong the court process."

The Independent Production Agreement is the contract between producers and the union.

ACTRA represents 21,000 performers who work in the English-language recorded media industry.

The major sticking point for members involves compensation for performances broadcast over the Internet and on cellular phones.

The performers went on strike Jan. 8 after ACTRA members voted 97.6 per cent in favour of walking off the job. The strike doesn't affect British Columbia, which operates under a separate agreement and where many producers have signed continuation letters with ACTRA.

At least three large scale U.S. productions have cancelled plans to bring work to Canada due to the prospect of a long strike.

The legal proceedings began last week when last ditch efforts by both parties to end the strike failed.

The union said it asked producers to put a global offer to settle on the table and that talks broke down after it refused.

Producers said talks broke down when ACTRA made an unreasonable demand for a 50-per-cent increase in fees for new media production, but ACTRA maintains it proposed all digital media issues to be referred to a joint committee so the industry could get back to work.

But the CFPTA is saying arbitration is the only way to end the strike.

"This appeal directly contradicts previous statements made by ACTRA that it wants a deal and is willing to get back to the bargaining table," said Guy Mason, president and CEO of CFPTA.

"I would urge ACTRA to resume bargaining and resolve the few remaining issues as soon as possible for the benefit of the entire industry."