Canuck union fights arbitration ruling

TORONTO — ACTRA has appealed an Ontario court’s Tuesday ruling sending its dispute with producers to arbitration, a move that deepens the bitter rift between Canadian thesps and producers.

Actors in several Canadian provinces repped by the union have been on strike since early January after thesps and the orgs repping producers failed to negotiate the terms of a new collective agreement.

The appeal will not necessarily prolong the strike any further, since it runs parallel to the appointment of an arbitrator, which is expected to take place next week.

The Canadian Film & Television Production Assn. went to an Ontario court to argue the strike is illegal, as are the continuation letters ACTRA has been offering producers. The judge did not grant an injunction ending the strike, but ordered that CFTPA’s arguments be sent to arbitration.

The arbitrator’s job is not to address the outstanding issues in the contract, the largest of which are wages and new-media rights, but rather to examine the legality of ACTRA’s tactics.

“Especially after expressing its concern of wasting time and money with ‘fruitless legal strategies,’ I fail to see the logic in ACTRA appealing this decision,” said John Barrack, CFTPA’s chief negotiator.

“An arbitrator doesn’t necessarily have the resources or the expertise to deal with these issues,” said ACTRA chief negotiator Steve Waddell, who believes the issues should go before the Ontario Labor Relations Board.

Both sides are appealing to the other to get back to the bargaining table and accusing the other of dragging its feet.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, three days of contract talks between the Union of BC Performers and the CFTPA’s BC division wrapped up Thursday. Thesps and producers in the province are covered by a different agreement from the rest of the country.

There is a “safe harbor agreement” in place protecting any production that signs up in the event of a strike or lockout after their IPA contract expires at the end of March. In return for including the safe harbor agreement in the negotiations, all BC thesps received a 2% wage increase that went into effect Jan. 14.

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