ACTRA rejects producers' offer

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TORONTO -- Talks between North American producers and Canada's actors union broke down late Wednesday after the performers' bargainers rejected a 4% wage increase over three years.

Negotiations between performers union ACTRA and American producers, the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. and Quebec producers associated with the Association de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec failed to produce a new Independent Production Agreement, which governs wages and workplace conditions for performers.

No new talks are scheduled before the current IPA agreement expires Dec. 31. Barring a last-minute breakthrough, ACTRA's members will be in a legal position to strike in early January.

The current impasse follows marathon negotiations that began Nov. 23 and culminated with the producers, including a host of Hollywood studio representatives, putting their first wage proposals for a new labor deal on the table late Wednesday night.

The actors were offered a 1% wage increase in the first year, another 2% increase in the second year and a 1% increase in the third year of the proposed agreement.

At the same time, the producers' pay proposal called for actors to forego any wage increase on U.S. film and TV shoots here during the first year of a new deal, and during the first two years of a three-year contract on select Canadian shoots.

Stephen Waddell, ACTRA's chief negotiator, rejected the producers' pay proposal as inadequate, and also criticized contract demands on new media product that included no apparent residuals for the actors.

"We're not going to give away the future for free. And we are not going to let our members' pay continue to erode compared to other performers in North America," Waddell said after talks broke off.

John Barrack, chief negotiator for the CFTPA, defended the wage increase proposal, insisting it was the same pay increase offered and agreed to by the Writers Guild of Canada last May.

Barrack added that the Hollywood studios demanded the one-year lag before any wage increase kicked in for Canadian actors, citing competition from rival jurisdictions for foreign location shooting, including Eastern Europe and Australia.

Producer representatives also insisted that new media residuals for actors had to wait until a business model for digital product emerged.

"The studios essentially told the actors they will not pay for the privilege of losing more money on new media product," Barrack said.
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