Members of the Directors Guild of Canada British Columbia have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against film and TV productions in the province. The vote on the union’s first-ever strike mandate was 92.2% in favor, with 86.2% of eligible voters casting ballots.
“We thank our members for the solidarity they have shown with this overwhelming mandate,” said Allan Harmon, DGC BC’s district council chairman. “Their strength and resolve make it clear that respect, fairness and safety in the workplace are non-negotiable. We are fighting to achieve and maintain fundamental rights for everyone working under our collective agreement.”
B.C.’s largest city is the busy production hub of Vancouver.
Prior to the balloting, the guild told its members that a “yes” vote “does not mean we walk off the job the next day. Instead, it gives your negotiating team a strong mandate in its efforts to negotiate a fair deal and empowers us to take job action if the negotiating producers refuse to respond to your legitimate concerns.”
“Our goal is to reach a fair agreement,” said Kendrie Upton, DGC BC’s executive director. “We all care about this industry, so let’s roll up our sleeves, get back to the table and find a solution. That is the best way to ensure long-term labor stability.”
The guild’s current contract was set to expire on March 31, 2021, but has been extended for more than a year in the hopes that a fair deal could be reached. Labor and management are expected to return to the bargaining table in the coming days, even though the guild has already declared an “impasse” in the talks after mediation failed. In the U.S., the declaration of a bargaining “impasse” often precedes a strike – especially after mediation fails, as it did in the runup to the authorization vote.
A strike, if it comes to that, would be the first in the DGC BC’s history. According to Creative BC, the British Columbia film commission, more than 30 projects are currently filming there, including such films as Parallel Forest and Pinky; TV series The Flash, The Good Doctor, Charmed, Snowpiercer, Riverdale, Superman & Lois, A Million Little Things, and The Nanny, and mini-series The Fall of the House of Usher and Shogun.
A strike, however, would not stop filming elsewhere in Canada. In Toronto, which is also a major filming destination, directors and their crews are represented by a different DGC district council, which has its own separate contracts and is not threatening a work-stoppage.
DGC BC says it’s “fighting for respect, fairness and safety for those working under its collective agreement, especially the people in the lowest paid and most vulnerable positions, which includes those from diverse and underrepresented groups in the industry.” It also says it’s fighting against “clawbacks” – rollbacks to existing terms in its contract. Other key issues, it says, are minimum wage differentials; payment terms for Covid testing, and retroactivity of wage increases. “We cannot recommend a deal that includes significant concessions and does not address the DGC BC’s key objectives of respect, fairness and safety,” the guild said before the vote.
The 1,700-member guild represents not only directors but also second unit directors, production and unit managers, and those employed in the various assistant director and locations departments, as well as entry-level production assistants. Acceptable terms for the entry-level assistants have been a major sticking point in the talks.
The AMPTP and the Canadian Media Producers Association, with whom the guild has been bargaining, on and off, for over a year, warned on Wednesday that labor instability in the region could force producers to think twice about filming there. “The DGC BC’s strike authorization vote sends a message of labour uncertainty in the province and seriously jeopardizes British Columbia’s reputation as an attractive location for motion picture production. Considering the potential for labor instability in British Columbia, companies represented by the AMPTP and CMPA may be forced to re-evaluate their plans for basing new productions in the province.”
The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which represents the major U.S. companies, and the CMPA, a trade association for independent producers, say that they have “carefully considered the Guild’s key priorities and offered a comprehensive proposal to address those demands, including across-the-board wage increases, outsized increases for the lowest-paid classifications, outsized wage increases for Location Managers, the creation of a new and higher-paid Key Background Coordinator classification and increased benefits for members working on certain high budget SVOD productions including residual payments for Directors. This generous offer contains no ‘rollbacks’ or reductions in benefits.”
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