Canada’s thesps and producers have agreed to return to the bargaining table Wednesday, with a seasoned federal mediator sitting in at the request of Canada’s labor minister, who expressed concern at the damage the dispute is doing to the economy.
“In my view, the continued production of Canadian film and television programs is too important to Canada and to the Canadian economy to be jeopardized by your current dispute,” said federal Labor Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who has asked his chief mediator, Elizabeth MacPherson, to participate in the talks.
The Canadian Film & Television Production Assn. issued a release saying that it is “cautiously optimistic that these bargaining dates will produce a much anticipated end to this lengthy and difficult time.”
Canadian thesps have been on strike in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba since early January after the two sides failed to agree on the terms of a new Independent Production Agreement. The other provinces, with the exception of British Columbia, which is covered under a different agreement, are expected to be in a strike position shortly. Wages and new media are the most controversial issues between them.
The associations repping many Canadian producers challenged the legality of ACTRA’s strike as well as the continuation letters the union has been offering Canadian producers in exchange for a 7% wage and benefits increase.
An Ontario judge failed to issue an injunction to end the strike, but referred the producers’ case to arbitration.
While ACTRA has appealed the judge’s decision, arbitration is set to begin on Feb. 19. The arbitration is meant to address the legality of ACTRA’s tactics as opposed to the issues outstanding between the two sides.
Also on Friday, ACTRA staged a demonstration in front of the Toronto offices of the producers org.
“We are here to help the CFTPA see where this deal is,” Waddell said. “We have provided a comprehensive settlement package to the producers’ associations covering the three major sticking points: rates, Internet and legal issues. I really don’t understand how they can turn it down.”
The union is asking that new media issues be set aside for further study and Waddell argued that since close to 150 producers have signed the continuation letters, they can afford to give actors a 7% raise.