Canada’s labor logjam

Labor instability has stalled production in Toronto

Hollywood execs anxious about next year’s WGA and SAG talks, look north.

In Canada, thorny union negotiations now playing out may provide some early indications of how things might go at home.

Labor instability has stalled production in Toronto “worse than SARS,” says Ken Ferguson, prexy of Toronto Film Studios, who notes that this year is looking like one of the leanest in memory. The city is hosting just two big-ticket U.S. productions, “Jumper” and “Hairspray.”

Ferguson suggests Hollywood keep an eye north of the border, where actors and producers are wading into the touchy subject of pay and revenue sharing for new platforms. In October, talks broke off after just two days when producers proposed significant rollbacks for new platforms. The two have since returned to the table, but remain “miles apart.”

Earlier this year, producers also steered clear of Toronto as they waited for its technicians, represented by IATSE 873, to hammer out a new deal, one that included the welcome elimination of certain seniority provisions.

“The agreement that was reached with 873 was one that the U.S. producers like. They like it a lot. And when the ACTRA deal is done I think (Toronto’s) going to become popular again,” says Ferguson. “But it’s the painful process of getting there.”