Tag Archives: Strike

Canadian actors inch toward strike

TORONTO — Unionized actors in Canada have moved a step closer to a possible strike over pay from Canadian advertisers.

On Thursday, ACTRA, which represents about 21,000 domestic performers, and the Institute of Communications Agencies and the Association of Canadian Advertisers requested a conciliation officers’ report after 17 months of bargaining hit a roadblock earlier this month.

Receiving the conciliators’ report would put ACTRA in a legal strike position by the middle of October, even though the performers union insists it is not seeking labor instability.

“We have additional negotiating dates planned. However, we will not agree to a contract with the advertisers that would significantly decrease performers’ earnings at the same time as advertising agencies are making huge profits,” ACTRA national president Richard Hardacre said Friday.

In mid-September, ACTRA unveiled plans to poll its membership on a strike mandate as efforts to reach a new National Commercial Agreement yielded little progress.

The union said it expects to announce the results of its strike referendum by Oct. 15.

The last National Commercial Agreement expired June 30. A government conciliator stepped in to restart negotiations between the actors and advertisers in July, and met with both parties on Thursday.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

SAG, studios begin negotiations

Opting for a low-key approach amid the town’s fears of a strike, the Screen Actors Guild and the majors have launched feature-primetime negotiations with a minimum of fanfare — in sharp contrast to last year’s incendiary WGA talks.

Bargaining began Tuesday morning at AMPTP headquarters with the official presentation of proposals. SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers issued a brief statement in the late afternoon, disclosing only that talks would resume this morning.

The two sides have not agreed to a news blackout, but plan to limit their disclosure to jointly issued end-of-the-day statements for the next two weeks.

Although these plans may change if talks become contentious, the main hope behind the strategy is to avoid the bitter back-and-forth attacks that dominated WGA negotiations before and during the writers strike. Even before the first WGA bargaining sessions began in mid-July, both sides had been blasting each other’s positions; once the talks started, the accusations became only more vehement and vituperative.

The start of the SAG talks comes on the heels of a bruising battle with sister union the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists over jurisdiction and strategy.

On Monday, AFTRA spurned a last-minute invite from SAG to rejoin it at the bargaining table under terms of the 1981 Phase One partnership, with AFTRA asserting it can no longer trust SAG leaders due to a dispute over possible decertification of “The Bold and the Beautiful.” So Tuesday’s session represented the first time in 27 years that SAG and AFTRA have not negotiated together on the contract.

There’s still plenty of potential for the guild negotiations to veer off track. The congloms have insisted SAG’s going to have to accept terms similar to those in the WGA and DGA pacts signed earlier this year; SAG president Alan Rosenberg has been explicit that the guild must get a boost in DVD residuals and improvements in the new-media portions of the WGA and DGA deals.

The current SAG-AFTRA deal expires June 30. AFTRA, which covers a handful of primetime shows, will begin its negotiations on April 28 — which puts pressure on SAG to wrap up its talks by then or face the prospect of AFTRA signing a deal first and then using it to expand its coverage in areas of shared jurisdiction.

In a sign that SAG is cognizant of the looming AFTRA talks, it’s already scheduled talks for the next two Saturdays, in addition to the weekdays.

And the bitter dispute with AFTRA received more fuel Tuesday as “The Bold and the Beautiful” star Susan Flannery asserted that SAG had not initiated the question of decertification.

“Just so everyone understands, the idea of exploring the possibility of a new ‘collective bargaining agent’ began with me,” she said in a letter to the SAG board. “There have been over the past 21 years at ‘B&B’ a growing dissatisfaction with AFTRA regarding health plans, residuals, pensions, meal penalties, turnarounds, etc. In the final analysis, the contracts negotiated on our behalf over the years, in our opinion, have fallen very short of our expectations!”

AFTRA leaders have said that SAG’s involvement in discussing decertification with Flannery was “the last straw.” But Flannery insisted that SAG national exec director Doug Allen merely advised her and co-star John McCook that they should take the matter to AFTRA.

Tuesday’s launch of negotiations coincided with a labor solidarity rally at Hancock Park to start a three-day “March to the Docks” to push for better jobs. SAG board member Esai Morales and AFTRA board member Jason George both spoke at the event, which drew about 1,000 supporters from more than two dozen unions.

“Unions are the only way to keep our dignity,” Morales said. “We’ve been under assault for decades. Corporate America has turned us into a serf nation.”

Morales also said SAG doesn’t want a strike, reiterating a position that Allen and Rosenberg have expressed repeatedly.

“But we will not be forced into a position where we have to take less and less,” he added. “We will not be the bad guy on this. Let it be on them to give us what we deserve.”

Source: Variety

WGA talks ratification

One of the final acts in the WGA strike passed quietly Monday night, as fewer than 20 members showed up for a brief contract ratification meeting at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills.

Confab sets the stage for the afternoon’s announcement of voting results on the ratification ballot sent to members 11 days ago. Members had the option of voting by mail or showing up at the meeting with a ballot.

WGA West president Patric Verrone, WGA West exec director David Young and WGA West counsel Anthony Segall staffed the dais during Monday’s 15-minute session.

Verrone told members he was least pleased with the deal’s 17- to 24-day promotional window for Internet streaming of TV series — an assertion he also made during the Feb. 9 membership meeting at the Shrine Auditorium. Along with a lack of improvement in cable, the terms for ad-supported streaming were the most unpopular aspects of the WGA deal among members due to concerns over the fast-growing migration of TV viewing to the Web.

In response to a question about upcoming negotiations for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, Verrone expressed “100% support” for the actors. He noted that he expects SAG — the WGA’s closest ally during the strike — to take a strong stance at the bargaining table.

The ruling boards of the WGA West and WGA East recommended the new three-year deal unanimously on Feb. 10, pointing to gains in new-media jurisdiction and compensation. The ratification vote is expected to come in around the same high level of support — 92.5% — achieved in the vote to end the strike on Feb. 12.

Terms of the new deal will go into effect immediately, and the contract will run to May 1, 2011.

Source: Variety

Strike nearly ‘nail in coffin’ for Canada’s entertainment industry say experts

TORONTO (CP) _ A bitter six-week labour dispute between Canadian actors and producers was nearly the "final nail in the coffin" for the country’s already battered film and television industry, which experts say now faces a long, hard, uphill climb along the road to recovery.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists went on strike Jan. 8 and later extended their protest to Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The dispute, which focused on wages and how actors should be compensated for work across new media platforms, lasted for more than six weeks before a tentative agreement was announced last week, to the collective relief of an industry that observers say has suffered a substantial blow.

"This labour dispute drove a lot of business away from here and it’s going to take time to bring it back," said John Barrack, the national executive vice-president for the Canadian Film and Television Production Association and chief negotiator during the strike.

"Productions are planned six months to a year in advance and the labour instability hurts, so it’s going to take some time for that work to come back."

But Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO for The Comweb Group, said the strike was just the latest problem for an industry that was already reeling from a number of other factors.

"The strike certainly was almost the final nail in the coffin," said Bronfman, speaking from the CFTPA’s conference in Ottawa.

"That basically held everybody hostage . . . right now (the industry) is being taken off life support and it’s going to take us months to recover from this fiasco."

It’s unclear exactly how much money was lost due to the strike, though the experts agree a number of American productions took one look at the labour unrest and decided to film elsewhere. Toronto, the heart of Canada’s film industry, lost an estimated $400 million in production revenue.

Yet CFTPA figures suggest the industry has been in financial decline for several years. Film and television production dipped nine per cent in 2004-05, "an indicator that a downward trend is beginning," the association’s report says.

In that same time period, production generated 11 per cent fewer jobs than the previous year _ the third straight annual decrease.

Charlie Keil, the director of the University of Toronto’s cinema studies program, said the strike "added insult to injury" because a number of other factors are already working against the industry.

A number of "unforeseeable blights," including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Toronto’s SARS outbreak in 2003, took a heavy toll that has yet to be recovered. A strong Canadian dollar relative to its U.S. counterpart has also made Canada less appealing to U.S. producers.

But what has really hurt the industry is the very thing that once gave it life, said Keil.

"Various incentives and tax breaks made Canada an appealing place to do business," he said. Then, "other municipalities (in the U.S.) figured out that they too could offer competitive tax incentives."

With jurisdictions outside Canada constantly upping the ante, Hollywood North has had a difficult time competing.

Still, there remains reason for optimism, said Stephen Waddell, the union’s national executive director and strike negotiator.

"Given that the (American) studios will be presumably beginning to stockpile productions looking forward to the potential for a Writers Guild of America or Screen Actors Guild strike in the U.S., I think we’ll see increased production in Ontario."

ACTRA members on strike

TORONTO (CP) _ The union representing 21,000 members of Canada’s film, television and radio industry has told its members in four provinces not to report for work Monday despite continuing negotiations with producers. After receiving an overwhelming 97.6-per-cent strike mandate from its membership in December, ACTRA was in a position to strike as of 12:01 Monday morning. Richard Hardacre, the national president of ACTRA, said talks will likely continue but the strike would start.

"Across Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, our members are being told now that they cannot report for work, unless they’re working for producers who have been engaged with ACTRA on an interim agreement," he said late Sunday night.

Those productions, such as the Rick Mercer Report and the Royal Canadian Air Farce, would not be disrupted by a strike. Hardacre said the bargaining teams were prepared to stay up through the night.

"Nobody wants a strike," he said, "but we will have to have a strike if we are forced to concede on a major area."

That major area is the use of a performer’s work across new media, such as the Internet. ACTRA _ the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists _ is opposed to having their work distributed on new media, such as in promotional materials, without being paid more.

Hardacre said ACTRA’s members are willing to allow for three such uses of their work for free, and the producers want unlimited use. During a strike, performers will still be allowed to work on commercials and student films.

Jeff Brinton of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association has said producers would seek a judge’s order to force actors to perform in the event of a mass walkout.

ACTRA is set to strike in Quebec on Wednesday, with other provinces following from there.

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