Canada actors strike wraps

Studios OK terms of Web residuals

Canada's actors strike is over, and this time it looks as if it is for real.

A tentative deal to end the country's first-ever actors strike was reached Tuesday after the major Hollywood studios agreed on newly written contract terms for Internet residuals.

Hollywood studio CEOs on Friday shot down an earlier attempt at a tentative deal to end a strike by ACTRA, representing 21,000 domestic performers, over fears that its landmark new-media residuals terms will set a precedent for their own upcoming contract talks with Hollywood unions and guilds beginning this year (HR 2/18).

But late Tuesday, Stephen Waddell, chief negotiator for ACTRA, and John Barrack, his counterpart at the Canadian Film and Television Producers Assn., representing major domestic producers, said they will now take the new Independent Production Agreement to their memberships for ratification.

Also recommending acceptance of the new labor deal are Quebec producers aligned with the Association de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec.

"We're both ecstatic. I'm recommending to my board in the morning that we sign on," the CFTPA's Barrack said during a phone call with Waddell.

Ratification from ACTRA members for the new pact will take as many as six weeks as it will be secured as part of a mail referendum. Waddell said his union's leadership will recommend acceptance to its rank and file.

The likely end to the six-week-old Canadian actors strike follows after Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, agreed to new language to give Canadian actors residual rights for Internet-based performances.

An impasse over Internet compensation initially triggered the ACTRA strike Jan. 8, and proved a major stumbling block to its resolution.

As part of a new IPA, Canadian actors will receive a 10% wage increase over three years and landmark payment formulas for performances showing up on the Internet, cell phones or other new digital platforms.

Under the revised new-media residuals terms, U.S. studios and their affiliates can choose option B in the IPA agreement, which allows them to negotiate with ACTRA on a production-by-production basis, setting minimum fees for Canadian actors.

In return, ACTRA has secured a "reopener" provision in the IPA that allows them to renegotiate the Internet residuals terms for the IPA by Jan. 1, 2009, or after the major studios conclude their own talks with the U.S. guilds and unions.

The idea is to enable the studios to sign on to the IPA, without prejudicing their own upcoming contract talks.

The end to the ACTRA strike will see no traditional return to work for domestic performers as production never ceased during their labor dispute. Instead, about 200 Canadian producers defied the CFTPA leadership and signed individual deals with ACTRA to spare their film or TV shoots picketing or other labor action.

ACTRA's Waddell said use of the controversial continuation letters will end, restoring labor peace in the Canadian film and TV production sector.

In addition, the CFTPA will end its attempt through court-ordered arbitration to define whether ACTRA is in fact a union able to mount a legal strike outside of the jurisdiction of the IPA.

"All the fights are gone, and we've reformed the IPA protocol with greater certainty," Barrack said.

The likely end to the ACTRA strike comes as the CFTPA gets set to hold its annual convention in Ottawa from today-Friday, and U.S. producers gear up for the spring and summer shooting season.