Contract talks have stalled and the Directors Guild of Canada BC has issued a 72-hour strike notice, the next and possibly final step before the guild launches a work stoppage in British Columbia. Barring a last minute settlement, a work stoppage could come any day.
The latest move comes in the wake of a strike mandate vote that was approved overwhelmingly by the guild’s members. Negotiations with the AMPTP and the Canadian Media Producers Association had been going on, on and off, for over a year.
A strike, if it comes to that, would be the first in the DGC BC’s history, though most films and TV shows currently shooting in British Columbia would not be affected because they are protected by what’s known as “safe harbor” agreements. In 2008 the BC Labor Board imposed safe harbor agreements upon the industry to provide for labor stability during collective bargaining. Most productions currently shooting in BC have signed safe harbor agreements. Any production that has signed, and complies with the terms of a safe harbor agreement is protected from a labor action.
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 miniseries 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.
Earlier this month, DGC BC members voted 92.2% in favor of a strike mandate if last-ditch negotiations failed to reach a fair deal. After that, the union requested a meeting with the employers in an attempt to resolve the matter. The parties met on April 25. “No progress was made towards reaching a deal,” the guild said.
“Yesterday, we met with the Negotiating Producers,” said Allan Harmon, District Council Chairman, DGC BC. “In light of the overwhelming support for a strike mandate, we had expected them to address the issues that are vitally important to our members. They did not. Their refusal to address these issues has left us with no other choice but to issue a strike notice.”
The guild said that the strike notice means that “72 hours after the strike notice is served, any production that is not covered by a safe harbor agreement may be subject to labor action. Moving forward there can be no new safe harbor agreements. Productions with existing safe harbor agreements will be protected from any labor action.”
“We want labor stability, but we need an agreement that provides respect, fairness and safety for everyone working under our contract,” said Kendrie Upton, executive director of DGC BC. “We care about this industry. We have always been willing to negotiate. The employers need to do their part and work with us to hammer out a fair deal.”
According to the guild, the key issues that remain outstanding are:
- Minimum wage differentials: as minimum wage increases, so should all wage rates of lower-paid positions.
- Payment terms for Covid testing.
- Retroactivity of wage increases to the expiry of the last collective agreement.
- The Negotiating Producers’ demands for further concessions
These issues, the guild said, “primarily impact the lowest paid and most vulnerable positions.”