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Court orders ACTRA arbitration
by: Feb 5, 2007 Print

An Ontario court gave the CFTPA a partial victory on Jan. 30 by ordering that an arbitrator help settle its labor dispute with ACTRA. But Justice Sarah Pepall of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice denied the producers' separate application for a restraining order against ACTRA's ongoing strike and its continuation letters.

In a 19-page decision, Justice Pepall said she would hold ACTRA and the CFTPA to the agreed-upon arbitration provisions outlined in the Independent Production Agreement.

"The parties expressly turned their minds to the issue of dispute resolution and gave the arbitrator the power to decide whether a collective agreement had been entered into," the ruling reads.

"It seems to me that I should give effect to the parties' consensual dispute resolution process and that an arbitrator should be appointed."

CFTPA chief negotiator John Barrack says the ruling preserved the IPA and stopped ACTRA from pursuing separate mediation and labor action across the country through provincial labor relations boards.

He says that allowing ACTRA to pursue a strike in separate provinces, rather than nationally (except for British Columbia) through an IPA-sanctioned arbitrator, would have "ripped" the collective agreement apart.

The IPA governs performers' wages and workplace conditions across Canada, except in B.C., where actors are subject to a separate labor deal with producers. B.C.'s agreement expires at the end of March, and talks are now underway.

But the court ruling dismissed a separate request from the producers for a restraining order against the actors union's use of continuation letters in their strike.

In her ruling, Justice Pepall said she would not "address each argument" brought before her last week during oral arguments in the CFTPA legal action because the producers had failed to prove they have suffered "irreparable harm" from ACTRA's business-as-usual strike, which is a precondition for injunctive relief. ACTRA went on strike Jan. 8, but its members have continued to work on projects that have signed letters agreeing to pay and benefit hikes.

"There has been no withdrawal of services by ACTRA. All existing productions are continuing," the judge argued, before adding the CFTPA case for injunctive relief was based on "bald assertions, speculation and suggestions of harm that are rather amorphous in nature or lacking in detail or specificity."

The court further argued that the CFTPA was not denying ACTRA the right to strike, only insisting that it could not do so outside of the IPA.

The absence of injunctive relief in the court ruling gave ACTRA grounds to declare its own victory.

"We're going to continue our strike, as we have been, and we're going to continue to offer continuation letters to any producer who wishes to sign them," says ACTRA chief negotiator Stephen Waddell.

He adds the court has stipulated that "unspecified issues" should be litigated before an arbitrator, a process that could prove lengthy and subject to appeal.

Waddell instead urged the CFTPA "to stop wasting time and money" and to return to the bargaining table at once.

Barrack agreed that avoiding further litigation and restarting stalled IPA talks was a welcome option, but he refused to accept ACTRA's recent call to put the thorny issue of new media compensation for actors out to a joint committee for separate negotiation.

Barrack instead repeated the CFTPA's contention that its members require new media rights to performances to sell product to broadcasters at home and internationally.

No new bargaining dates have been scheduled by ACTRA and the CFTPA as their labor dispute continues into its fourth week.





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