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Producers vs. thesps in Oz

Strike threat looms if pay agreement terminated

SYDNEY — Just four months after settling a long-running dispute over pay rates for thesps in Australian features, the Aussie producers and actors guilds are feuding again, this time about overseas-commissioned TV commercials shot locally.

Producers said they will terminate an agreement on pay and conditions for such work Dec. 12, provoking threats of strike action by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

Screen Producers Assn. of Australia exec director Geoff Brown said producers who make their living by creating television commercials commissioned offshore have not obtained a job this year because the agreement has made them noncompetitive.

Brown asserted attempts to renegotiate the deal with the MEAA since July have proved fruitless. “We had to take action because MEAA’s delays meant that we would miss the northern winter when work has traditionally come to Australia.”

SPAA’s chief concern is that the agreement calls for thesps to be paid on engagement, whereas many offshore clients want to film multiple performers, but pay only those who are used in the final cut.

Brown estimates A$5 million ($3.5 million) would have gone to performers this year from offshore commercials if changes had been made to the agreement.

Simon Whipp, the MEAA’s national director, said the guild is willing to renegotiate, and he accused the producers of using bully-boy tactics by terminating the agreement.

“Unless SPAA can show a little more respect for Australia’s performers, industrial action, including a strike, is certainly looking more and more likely as the Dec. 12 deadline draws nearer,” Whipp said.

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