Mediator tapped to avert actors' strike

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TORONTO -- A mediator has been named in Quebec and another is set to be named in Ontario in a bid to restart stalled labor talks between Canadian actors and North American producers.

Stephen Waddell, national executive director and lead negotiator for ACTRA, which represents 21,000 domestic performers, said Wednesday that the Quebec Labor Board has named Richard Champagne to resolve an impasse in talks involving ACTRA, American producers, English-language producers aligned with the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. and Quebec producers with the Association de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec.

Waddell said a mediator for Ontario will be named this week.

ACTRA called for mediation last week to bring about a new indie production agreement after talks that began Oct. 23 collapsed when producers demanded actors take pay cuts of 10%-25% for minimum daily rates paid on film and TV productions shot here.

John Barrack, CFTPA general counsel and lead negotiator, said Wednesday that he would prefer a national mediator to help restart the stalled talks and reiterated his charge that ACTRA was playing the conciliation card early in the negotiations as a prelude to a possible strike early next year.

"It's very clear to us that ACTRA wants to go on strike, which is unfortunate," he said.

The producers offered to make any new indie production agreement retroactive in return for ACTRA agreeing to a single national mediator.

Waddell insisted that ACTRA was not seeking an unnecessary strike to back its demands at the bargaining table but rather was complying with Canadian labor law by applying for mediation to work out a deal.

The existing agreement expires Dec. 31.
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