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ACTRA Strike Update - Cross Country Checkup!

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

January 11, 2007

Comments (1)

Read what several ACTRA talent have to say about the strike that has rocked the acting community, the country and the Canadian broadcast and film industry.

As of this blog post, we are now fully in day 4 of the ACTRA strike, and news of any progress in mainstream media is scarce - that is, until now.

I polled several professional voice actors who are members of ACTRA to see how they were faring and if they had any projections to share with us here at VOX Daily.

The answers came rolling in like wildfire, demonstrating their devotion to their union.

My questions were simple and straight to the point. I asked how they were affected by the strike among other things, taking the pulse of those directly involved in the struggle to see Canadian talent paid on a scale closer to par with their American counterparts, SAG and AFTRA.

First, let's do away with some of the misconceptions surrounding this strike and learn of the catalysts that triggered it with some insight from Bruce Marshall, pro voice talent, on air talent, and instructor at Humber College and Seneca College:

The first is that this strike won’t have much affect on voice-over people. If you’re working on a contract under the Independent Production Agreement (IPA), then your production may on hiatus. But even in that case there are conditions under which ACTRA members can continue to work on some productions.

However, most voice over work (other than narrations and animation) is done under the Commercial Agreement – not the IPA.

Canadian film and television production was profoundly affected by the SARS crisis several years ago. That was the start of a slide in production. But a contributing factor also has been changes to CRTC regulations that have gutted the home-grown, produced-for-Canadians TV industry. There’s Corner Gas on CTV, a few others on CBC and that’s about it.

That type of production has been so hard hit that a friend of mine who was Gemini nominated as a lead on a now defunct Canadian series has had to go home to Vancouver: There’s no work in Toronto for someone of Gemini-nominated, series-leading-experience in what used to be the biggest film and TV production market in the nation – often # 2 in North America.

The strike is significant: ACTRA went to the bargaining table looking to close the gap with SAG in the US. (Who support ACTRA) What the producers offered instead was a 25% cut across the board. It doesn’t look like there’s been much movement – even with over 97% of ACTRA members voting to go out.

The biggest “affect” to voice performers might be that there are a lot more series leads available to audition – but that’s been the case for several years. It’s a regular thing to run into someone whose name appeared in the first dozen or so in the credits on a Canadian program at voice auditions.

Bruce Marshall

Moving eastward across Ontario to Quebec, Dawn Ford replied with the following thoughts:

I am a grateful member of Actra and have been for about 17 years.

I, personally have not had to strike before now. However, I have always backed my union and felt represented at the bargaining tables in the highest posible form. The members who voluntarily sit as well as the staff are all first class, cream of the crop representatives.

I have full confidence in the team this year and know that we will have a resolution when the agreement comes to a win/win situation. Time will tell and no matter what united we stand divided we fall.

Only as of today, Montreal has gone on strike and therefore I have not been assigned picket duty. At the drop of a hat I'm there.

Thank you for your concern and interest. Actra means the world to me and has provided me with support as an actress, with continual respect of actors being the primary purpose.

Sincerely,
Dawn Ford

In Ontario, ACTRA Apprentice Glenda Gerrard said:

I am a part time actor and get a few auditions a month, so the strike is not really a hardship for me at this time. I am an ACTRA apprentice member and receive no type of compensation, in any case.

I believe it is affecting those full fledged and totally working members, of course. I don't think the members will give in to a piddly increase or any changes or requests made in the contract.

Good luck!

Glenda Gerrard

Neil Whitely shared the following insights with us:

I haven’t felt the effect of the strike personally yet as this is traditionally a slow time for the industry in Ontario. If the strike were to drag on for an extended period, I would expect a drastic drop in the frequency of my auditions.

There is no such compensation during strikes. ACTRA does not guarantee our income when there is no labour unrest so we are certainly not going to be compensated when we are on strike.

I feel this strike is very significant in the sense that the result could set a precedent for producer/talent relationships elsewhere. The key issue is the payment of royalties for the use of our performances as it applies to “new media” such as the Internet. I know that representatives of SAG as well as the production side from the U.S. have been present at these negotiations as they have a vest interest in the result.

To answer your question about picket duty, I have not been assigned picket duty as of yet. But I have stated that I would make myself available whenever possible.

Although many Toronto productions have signed Letters of Continuance in order for their projects to proceed uninterrupted during the strike and in the process agreed to a wage increase, we do not know how many other productions are being discouraged from coming to Ontario to shoot or record because of the labour uncertainty.

Both sides know that this potential fallout is critical to the survival of our industry and therefore the issues must be solved as quickly as possible. Personally, I would be very surprised to see this situation drag on for long.

I hope you find this helpful.

Best regards,
Neil Whitely

And for some famous last words, all of which we can agree upon from John McGrath in Ajax, ON:

I'm hopeful for an early end so everybody can get back to what we love to do - entertain.

John McGrath

If you are a member of ACTRA and would like to share your experiences with the strike or thoughts about it, leave a comment on this blog post to keep the conversation going until an agreement has been reached!

Sincerely,

Stephanie

P.S. To listen to some audio feedback graciously provided by Bob Brewster of Quebec on this matter, listen to Episode 4 of our podcast, VOX Talk.

Related Topics: ACTRA, AFTRA, animation, industry, TV


Comments


    Going on strike is THE single most important decision union members can make.

    I can say that because, after spending nearly 5 years as a union staff executive for the AFTRA-SAG branch in San Diego, I empathize, and at the same time have a unique perpective.

    Now that I have been seated at both sides of the table, negotiating a collective bargaining agreement requires tenacity and extremely thick skin. It is eye opening to say the least, and to many, demoralizing to learn how little talent is regarded by management.

    Count on Management to hire hot labor attorneys which specialize at undermining and eroding the contract, and Unions in general, hoping to find and exploit any weakness in the Union.

    The Union is only as strong as its members.

    Of course there are so many non-unionists who'll love to get this work for nearly nothing, just to get their foot in the door. (Management will be certain you are fully aware of this) But the real danger can sometimes be the members themselves, who decide to work both sides, and under the table.

    The convergence of media, technology and economic globalization creates a whole new reality for management and unions. Each side has valid issues. Remaining competetive and turning profits, and earning a living wage is more difficult than ever to gain compromise and consensus.

    Maintaining a poker face and turf protection is more important than hammering out agreement. Collective bargaining never was or will be all sweetness and light. It will be a fight.

    AFTRA-SAG members are still trying to recover from its last commercial strike.

    Only time will tell if it was worth it.

    Thanks for listening.

    Bobbin Beam

    Posted by:

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