Performers, producers strike labor deal

After more than a year of negotiations, Canadian and U.S. producers and the union repping thesps in British Columbia have settled on the terms of their new Master Production Agreement.

Terms of the deal, inked Wednesday by negotiators for the Union of British Columbia Performers and those repping the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the B.C. Producers’ Branch of the Canadian Film & Television Production Assn., will not be made public until the union’s members have seen and ratified it.

The process is expected to take about a month.

“We believe that the agreement reached between performers and producers is a fair one and is respectful of the contribution that performers make to the industry and illustrates a commitment to future growth and industry stability,” said UBCP prexy Howard Storey. “In spite of protracted talks, there was not a single day of work lost, which illustrates the commitment of both the union and the production associations to the industry in B.C.”

The two sides have been negotiating behind closed doors on and off for more than a year. They reached an impasse in early 2006, reportedly on new-media rights and wages, and brought in a mediator who recommended a cooling-off period and the extension of the previous contract for a year, which ends Saturday. Producers and thesps were reportedly waiting for contract negotiations between producers and ACTRA, the union which reps performers in the rest of Canada, to set a precedent.

But ACTRA’s negotiations were marked by bitterness, public sniping and a six-week strike. The industry was destabilized, with the service industry grinding to a virtual halt, before the two sides agreed to new terms in February.

The B.C. negotiations, on the other hand, were held on the QT, and both sides were sheltered by a safe harbor agreement that gave all thesps a modest pay raise and kept sets operating and would have continued had the contract run out.

As a result, British Columbia has been enjoying an unprecedented production boom. TV series shooting there include “Blood Ties,” “Men in Trees,” “Smallville” and “Whistler.”

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