Thesps, producers still in dispute

Mediators unable to break the stalemate

Government-appointed mediators have failed to bring an end to a bitter dispute between Canadian thesps and producers, as two days of mediated talks broke off Thursday without ending the Canadian actors strike, now entering its fifth week.

Industryites had high hopes that the presence of mediators Elizabeth MacPherson and Richard Champagne, appointed by the provinces of Ontario and Quebec respectively for two days of talks Feb. 7 and 8 would break the stalemate between the actors union ACTRA and the Canadian Film & Television Production Assn. and the Assn. de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec.

And while the gap on the issues of wages and new media was narrowed, no deal was inked. “We were willing to take bold steps toward a new model that would work for both sides and satisfy ACTRA’s wage demands by providing a new stream of compensation when productions are exploited on any new platform,” said the CFTPA in a release.

ACTRA complained that the producers’ re-upped new media offer was little more than a “token payment” of 1% for five years’ new media use.

The thesps accused producers of bait-and-switch tactics and said in a release that their side of the negotiations was run by “eight Hollywood lawyers who appear to be using the CFTPA as a proxy and a puppet in their looming battle on this issue with the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, and the Screen Actors Guild.”

ACTRA is calling for new media issues to be referred to a joint committee for further study.

Although no new contract negotiations are scheduled, ACTRA chief negotiator Steve Waddell said he has been speaking over the weekend with CFTPA chief negotiator John Barrack by cell phone. “There are informal talks going on,” he said.

“We’re anxious to get together again, as soon as possible,” he added. “We’ll continue to be looking for dates for our next face-to-face meeting.”

Barrack is at the Berlin Film Festival but returns Tuesday. Waddell said that the government-appointed mediators will continue to be involved in any contract negotiations.

ACTRA has been on strike in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba since early January. Production has continued uninterrupted, however, because producers have inked continuation letters with the union in return for a wage and benefit increase of 7%.

The province of British Columbia is covered under a different collective agreement. Negotiations between BC and US producers and the Union of BC Performers have also stalled, on similar issues, although their IPA is in force until the end of March and the two sides have already agreed to an interim pay raise if the contract runs out before a deal is inked.

Court-ordered formal arbitration between thesps and producers in the rest of the country is scheduled to kick off February 19.

Arbitrator Marilyn Nairn’s job is not to tackle the terms of a new IPA for ACTRA and the producers, but to address the producers’ contention that ACTRA’s strike and the continuation letters that it has been offering producers are illegal.

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