MONTREAL — The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, Canada’s main actors union, has slammed its U.S. counterpart, the Screen Actors Guild, over SAG’s support for countervailing tariffs against U.S. producers shooting in Canada.
ACTRA national executive director Stephen Waddell said his union was shocked and surprised to learn earlier this week that SAG was endorsing plans to fight runaway production by instituting a countervailing tariff for U.S. producers who use subsidies from foreign governments, including Canada.
The ACTRA/SAG split is notable because the two actors unions have, in the past, taken a united front on most issues. During the SAG negotiations earlier this year, for example, ACTRA came out publicly in support of SAG, with the Canadian union declaring it would make every legal effort to ensure that its members honor a strike by SAG members.
SAG’s national board voted to support other groups petitioning the U.S. government to look into the issue of foreign governments subsidizing U.S. film producers and to investigate the idea of creating countervailing tariffs. These tariffs would force studios who collect foreign subsidies to pay a tariff of the same amount in order to be allowed to distribute their product in the U.S.
“It’s isolationist protectionism at its worst,” said ACTRA topper Waddell. “We’re frankly shocked by it. This is going to have a negative effect not only on production in Canada and workers in Canada but will hurt the U.S. production industry and, if implemented, will of course be difficult for U.S. consumers of entertainment product as well because the costs would ultimately be passed along to U.S. consumers. It will have a potentially hurtful effect on Canadian performers and on the Canadian television and film industry. There was no consultation with ACTRA on this action.”
Waddell said he hoped this difference of views would not hurt ongoing ACTRA/SAG relations. SAG has recently given its support to legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate to create a wage-based tax credit, similar to tax credits available for U.S. producers in Canada. Waddell suggested it was contradictory for SAG to support a U.S. tax credit and be against a similar credit in Canada.
ACTRA officials will be discussing these issues with SAG as soon as possible, said Waddell. The latter’s support of the tariff will also be on the table when the two unions get together at a previously scheduled meeting of international performers unions in New York in October. ACTRA represents 18,000 actors across Canada.
The Canuck actors union is also in the midst of a major war of words with the Hollywood studios. The majors have threatened to boycott shooting in Canada due to a potential ACTRA strike in January, a threat the union has called an unnecessary provocation.