TORONTO -- Canadian actors are set to launch a possible strike Monday that they insist they will mostly work through, thanks to individual deals with North American producers guaranteeing continued shooting.
Canadian actors and North American producers on Sunday evening were still bargaining on a new labor deal at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto ahead of a midnight deadline for ACTRA, which represents 21,000 performers, to call a strike.
But late Sunday night, the crunch talks between ACTRA and American producers, the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. and Quebec producers with the Association de producteurs de films et de television du Quebec appeared on the verge of breaking down as both sides traded proposals on the thorny issue of digital media compensation for Canadian actors.
As the midnight deadline drew near, the actors and producers had still to begin negotiating a possible wage increase for ACTRA members, another potential deal breaker.
ACTRA and CFTPA have both scheduled news conferences for Monday in Toronto.
But rather than launch a walkout Monday, ACTRA's leadership insists its members will remain on the job at 34 film or TV projects in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan -- with an immediate 7% wage increase.
Producers on the 34 projects have signed continuation letters that spare them labor disruption in return for a guarantee that ACTRA members will receive an immediate 5% increase in performer fees, an additional 1% increase in insurance benefits and another 1% increase for retirement benefits.
"They get the best of both worlds," Karl Pruner
, president of ACTRA's Toronto performers branch, said of his members possibly striking on Monday, but remaining on the job with a wage increase, thanks to the continuation letters.
Canadian producers, frustrated by ACTRA rebuffing its latest new media compensation proposals this weekend, blamed the performers for the lack of a new Independent Production Agreement.
"The actors are out of step with the budget realities in the new business environment," CFTPA chief negotiator John Barrack said Sunday night.
Barrack added that the producers will approach the courts to declare the continuation letters unlawful, and to challenge the right of actors as independent contractors to stage a strike.
"If they walk away from the bargaining process, all bets are off," he said ahead of possible legal action this week.