Canadian actors offer new proposal

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TORONTO -- Striking Canadian actors on Tuesday offered to break an impasse over new media residuals by putting the thorny issue of converting traditional media for use on emerging digital platforms to binding arbitration.

"We're trying to find some way to get a deal. I'm cautiously optimistic that we may be able to find a solution," ACTRA chief negotiator Stephen Waddell said after back-channel talks with the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn., representing major Canadian producers.

The proposal has implications for Hollywood studios that are looking for a precedent on new media residuals from the Canadian labor talks for leverage in separate talks later this year and next with L.A. guilds, including the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.

Sending to arbitration the issue of payment for old media performances converted to new media use marks a departure from ACTRA earlier insisting that the entire issue of new media residuals be spun off into separate talks by a joint committee, while a new Independent Production Agreement on all remaining issues was quickly settled.

Waddell is now proposing that a formal arbitrator hammer out a payment formula for old media conversions to digital use, while the separate issue of residuals for product made solely for new media use would be side-barred to a joint committee.

CFTPA chief negotiator John Barrack was not available for comment Tuesday as he was flying back to Toronto after attending the Berlin International Film Festival.

CFTPA chairman Ira Levy offered tentative approval to arbitration to value residuals for old media digital conversions.

"We would always be in favor of negotiations. But in lieu of not coming up with a concrete resolution, and mediation sometimes just being treading water, it's always better to go to arbitration," Levy said.

The issue of whether ACTRA is holding a legal strike is set to go to court-ordered arbitration on Monday and Tuesday , but no specific wage or workplace issues for Canadian actors have yet to go before an arbitrator for resolution.

ACTRA called its members out on strike on Jan. 8 after talks on a new contract faltered over how to pay performers for the use of their performances on the Internet, or other new digital technologies.

ACTRA last bargained with North American producers on Feb. 8, but those talks stalled after ACTRA members were offered a 5% buyout offer for new media rights for five years of use by producers.

But both sides in the dispute privately insist convincing U.S studio representatives to agree to arbitration for determining new media residuals will be a hard sell.

Hollywood producers are signatories to ACTRA's IPA agreement, along with the CFTPA and Quebec producers and Quebec producers with the Association de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec.

The ACTRA strike, now into its second month, has so far been without work stoppages owing to the use of continuation letters that spare producer signatories picketing or other on-set disruption in return for a 7% wage increase on struck film and TV sets.
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