Canadian actors unions continuing merger talks

Actors in British Columbia have opted to continue re-affiliation talks with ACTRA, Canada’s screen performers union — despite a proposed merger with the Canadian branch of the Teamsters.

Some 400 members of the breakaway Union of B.C. Performers (UBCP) showed up for a heated, 5 1/2-hour special meeting Sunday evening. At 1:30 a.m. they shelved a proposal to merge with Teamsters Canada (TC) in favor of once again seeking an agreement with the ACTRA Performers Guild (APG).

UBCP was formed four years ago because a large number of actors were dissatisfied with the APG’s approach to B.C.’s rapidly growing, U.S.-driven industry. Under intense pressure from fed-up producers and the B.C. government, the feuding unions were forced into a yearlong merger process last February.

UBCP walked away from the talks just before Christmas, claiming ACTRA had violated an interim jurisdictional agreement. Shortly thereafter, UBCP’s executive committee recommended affiliating with the Teamsters and raised questions about the Canadian Autoworkers Union’s (CAW) interest in ACTRA.

Is it a plot?

APG national president Dan MacDonald believes “it’s part of a North American plan by the Teamsters to tie up the whole entertainment industry. They’re even sniffing around the film industry in Mexico.” He also sees a connection with unhappiness in the U.S. that cultural matters were left out of the recent GATT and NAFTA trade agreements.

TC spokesman Mike Crawford confirmed his union does plan to fund a national organizing drive via per-capita payments from UBCP. In the meantime, TC recently took over a television station on the other coast, ATV in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which had been represented by the ACTRA Media Guild.

UBCP president Sam Sarker said the TC offer is moot since his executive board now has a clear mandate. “The Teamsters’ offer put us in a much stronger position. It focused the members’ attention.”

He thinks actors, many of whom have been paying double dues, want to end the dispute. “The grassroots want a strong national union separate and apart from either the Teamsters or CAW.”

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