Dozens of striking A-list actors are urging film industry colleagues in British Columbia to reject a proposed extension of their union agreements with major American studios, as concurrent Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes in Hollywood kneecap one of B.C.’s largest industries.
Stars including Elliot Page, Martin Short and Tatiana Maslany are among the 74 Canadian actors who signed a July 10 open letter calling for on- and off-screen colleagues in B.C. to vote down the deal they say uses them as “a bargaining chip,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) wants to extend its current agreement with its counterpart in B.C. and five film unions, set to expire on March 31, 2024, by one year, with a five per cent wage increase starting on April 1.
This would delay negotiating the next collective agreement by one year, meaning it would take effect on April 1, 2025.
The agreement is with the B.C. Branch of the Canadian Media Producers Association along with the Union of British Columbia Performers/Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (UBCP/ACTRA), IATSE 891, IATSE 669, Teamsters 155 and the Directors Guild of Canada B.C. branch (DGCBC).
AMPTP made the formal offer, which unions say was unprompted, on June 29.
All the unions, except the DGCBC, have put the matter to a vote by their membership, which includes tens of thousands of film industry workers from performers to directors to lighting technicians, animal handlers and prop designers.
The DGCBC’s executive, meanwhile, has unanimously supported the extension and is not putting it to a membership vote.
Workers have until July 21 to vote whether or not to take the deal, and all five unions must agree for it to take effect.
Signatories to the open letter say it will harm the B.C. workers’ position when bargaining for their next contract, and urged solidarity with striking actors and writers in the United States, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Our strength is in solidarity — with our members and with the labour movement at large. This is an inflection point. We must protect ourselves, our worth and the future artists in our industry. The economic survival of our very professions is at stake,” states the open letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
But union leaders in B.C. say the deal could help avoid local labour disruptions on the heels of job actions in the United States, making B.C. an attractive production location once the strikes end.
“This one-year-extension will encourage productions to land here in B.C. because it provides a stable environment without concerns about labour unrest,” reads an email from the DGCBC to their members. “This means more work for you.”
Having a busy jurisdiction also puts B.C. in a “much stronger position to bargain from,” said an email sent to Teamsters 155 members on July 5.
CBC News has reached out to DGCBC and UBCP/ACTRA for comment but did not hear back by publication time.
Deal doesn’t guarantee work, says assistant director
While some B.C.-based workers are eager to agree to the wage increase, others are skeptical of the offer’s timing.
Vancouver-based assistant director Iain Carson-Huggins is concerned AMPTP is capitalizing on American strikes putting many locals out of work to scare them into taking a deal that is worse than what they could negotiate next year.
“There are a lot of people in B.C. who work in the film industry who’ve been out of work the majority of this year. Some are already facing homelessness,” said Carson-Huggins, a DGCBC member who has worked on productions including Deadpool 2 and Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist.
Taking the deal would delay bargaining on urgent issues like safety conditions, wages that reflect high costs of living and the use of artificial intelligence to replace real actors, he said.
“Some have already left the industry because it’s so toxic … [you’re] working 15 to 18 hours a day, no sleep, driving back and forth, and then still not being able to afford your bills at the end of the month,” said Carson-Huggins, noting his disappointment DGCBC hasn’t offered members the chance to vote on the deal.
“We’re not going to have an industry if it continues like this.”
It will likely take months for work to resume once the strikes in the United States end, Carson-Huggins and other film industry workers have pointed out.
“Even if we agree to this five per cent deal, that doesn’t mean there’s going to be work in town,” said Carson-Huggins.
In 2021, film and television employed more than 88,000 people and generated more than $3.6 billion in economic activity in B.C., according to Creative B.C.