U.S. studios balking at ACTRA's tentative deal
Published Tuesday, February 20, 2007 8:13AM EST
TORONTO - Just days after reaching what they thought was an end to their bitter labour dispute, Canadian actors and producers were wringing their hands Monday as influential U.S. studios said 'no deal' to their tentative agreement.
American studios, which carry heavy influence over any agreement between the two sides, are balking at language in the agreement that gives Canadian actors residual rights for performances on the Internet.
Hollywood moguls fear the Canadian deal would set a precedent for impending negotiations with U.S. unions, said Richard Hardacre, president of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which represents Canadian performers.
Hardacre expressed frustration Monday as negotiations continued with a smaller, key group of bargainers for the union and the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association.
"We're trying to tailor a couple of directions that could be chosen by producers - either a means of dealing with the Internet that suits lower-budget Canadian producers, or options the American studios could use," Hardacre said.
The two sides thought they had reached a deal Friday with American studio executives, but the studio bosses stepped in to block it, he said.
He rejected the position of the association that characterized the development as a "hiccup."
"We viewed it as a renege of the deal," Hardacre said flatly.
At issue are the residual payments to be made to Canadian performers for work that's shown over the Internet.
The 21,000 members of the union walked off the job in January, largely over wages and a dispute over how they were to be paid for their work in new media.
Under the terms of the tentative deal, actors were to get a 10 per cent wage increase over three years plus residuals on Internet use.
The new dispute casts a pall over the palpable relief that emerged Friday when a tentative deal was announced.
Despite the fact that some productions that had already begun prior to the strike were allowed to proceed - hit shows such as "Little Mosque on the Prairie," "Deal or No Deal" and "Canadian Idol" never stopped production - the strike has hit the Canadian industry particularly hard.
Paul Bronfman, head of Comweb Group, a leading supplier of film services and equiment, said the strike cost Toronto two major Hollywood productions and some $400 million in lost production.
Bronfman expressed anger Monday at the new delay.
"I'm so sick of this," he said. "Our employees are walking on eggshells. Everyone in the industry is hurting very badly."
Talks with the producers were to continue into Monday night, Hardacre said.