Oz thesps on board for one-day strike

Stoppage affects TV dramas, not pix

SYDNEY — Australian actors are to hold a national one-day strike, probably next week, in a dispute with producers involving pay and conditions.

The work stoppage will disrupt filming of approximately 10 TV dramas, but won’t affect films, as none are in production or set to roll imminently.

The industrial action will not affect international film or TV productions lensed Down Under, because they are covered by a separate agreement.

Reps of all Oz TV drama casts voted Tuesday night to strike for one day; they banned weekend work to prevent producers from shifting shooting schedules to offset the loss of that day.

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance Equity division director Simon Whipp told Daily Variety Wednesday the union was obliged to give producers three days notice of intention to strike and the work stoppage probably will take place next week.

He said this marks the beginning of an industrial campaign that could involve more stoppages if the union does not get its way on several sticking points, including residuals, pay for guest stars and an agreement on contract options that bind actors to further episodes.

Screen Producers Assn. of Australia exec director Geoff Brown, repping the employers, is referring the matter to the Industrial Relations Commission to seek its intervention. “The last thing film and TV producers want is a dispute with actors,” Brown said.

The union and SPAA have already agreed on measures including a 12% pay raise over three years, new minimum rates for daily performers and stricter provisions on onscreen nudity, smoking and commercial tie-ins.

Brown said his org is ready to table a new repeats-and-residuals model that would uncap earnings for thesps when a program goes into net profit.

Brown said local drama production industry is at its lowest ebb ever, opining, “For television, broadcast license fees have stayed at the same level since the early 1990s, while the cost of production has doubled and overseas finance is drying up. Australian feature film budgets are declining relative to overseas films and sales are problematic.”

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