ACTRA appeals arbitration ruling

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TORONTO -- Two days after an Ontario judge sent their dispute with producers to arbitration, Canadian performers guild ACTRA said it is appealing the court's ruling.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled in favor of a request by the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. that an arbitrator consider whether ACTRA's three-week-old strike is illegal (HR 1/31).

ACTRA chief negotiator Stephen Waddell said that the notice of appeal asks Justice Sarah Pepall to rule on whether provincial labor relations boards have jurisdiction over the Independent Production Agreement that governs wages and workplace conditions for Canadian actors.

"Our notice of appeal concerns a point of law that needs clarification," Waddell said.

But John Barrack, the CFTPA's chief negotiator, criticized the move.

"Not only does this action further illustrate ACTRA's total disregard for the instability it has caused within the industry, but it goes one step further in trying to dismantle the IPA and prolong the court process," he said.

The latest legal skirmish comes as both sides in the Canadian actors strike inch back toward the bargaining table.

ACTRA representatives said they will attend a bargaining session on Friday in Toronto at the neutral offices of Dufferin Gates Prods., a major producer of U.S. TV series shot in Canada.

"We are available anytime, anyplace to settle this dispute. We have waited in vain for a reasonable offer to settle. We're still waiting," Waddell said ahead of Friday's planned talks.

But the CFTPA's Barrack said that the earliest his side can get back to the bargaining table is Monday, given that representatives of U.S. studios are currently in Vancouver negotiating a separate labor deal for actors in British Columbia, and Canadian producer representatives nationally need to travel to Toronto.

"We're willing to meet. But it takes time to assemble. My American friends are in Vancouver, and our Canadian friends are across the country," Barrack said.

ACTRA began its actors strike Jan. 8, and subsequent bargaining on a new IPA last deadlocked Jan. 22 on the question of how to pay actors for the airing of their performances on new digital media platforms including the Internet and cell phones.
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