Canadian actors, producers resume talks


TORONTO -- Informal talks have resumed between striking Canadian actors and North American producers.

Sources close to the talks said Thursday that informal bargaining resumed in Toronto on Monday and Tuesday, and continued on to Thursday.

This week's talks are the first since ACTRA, representing 21,000 domestic performers, called a strike on Jan. 8 over how American producers, the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. and Quebec producers with the Association de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec should pay Canadian actors for performances showing up on the Internet and other digital media.

But despite the strike call, the Canadian industry has not been disrupted. The producers signed ACTRA continuation letters that keep the actors on the job and prevent them from picketing or other job actions.

The informal talks are being conducted amid a media ban, so neither side was specific on the latest proposals put forward to possibly reach a new Independent Production Agreement, governing wages and workplace conditions for Canadian actors.

The resumption in negotiations also comes ahead of a key Jan. 23 hearing in Toronto at the Ontario Superior Court where the CFTPA, representing major independent producers, will seek a judge's order to end the use of continuation letters by its members to keep film and TV shoots afloat during the on-going actors' strike.

The CFTPA last week filed a legal motion arguing that ACTRA is acting illegally because exempting film or TV shoots from labor action through continuation letters breaks long-standing protocols contained in the IPA.

If the Ontario Superior Court rules in the producers' favor, then ACTRA will be forced to change its strike strategy.

But if the CFTPA's legal gambit fails, then the producers could be forced to approach provincial labor boards to help end a work stoppage. The producers have been reluctant to take that route as doing so would mean recognizing ACTRA as a bona fide union able to strike legally to back its demands at the bargaining table.

The ACTRA strike has so far spread to Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec. The actors union intends to extend its labor action to the rest of Canada in the coming weeks, except in British Columbia where actors work under a separate agreement with producers.