ACTRA deploys $1 million in support of action plan

The actors' union's strategy to counter what it sees as union-busting includes legal action, government relations and organizing efforts.

ACTRA, the union representing English-language actors and performers in Canada, is putting $1 million behind a strategy to fight what it describes as union-busting in the commercial sector.

Pulled from its national reserves, the funding is supporting ACTRA’s “National Commercial Agreement 2022-2023 Solidarity and Action Plan,” which aims to grow its membership in the commercial sector, as well as increase opportunities for those members.

“Our top priority is to ensure performing is a viable career for our members,” said Eleanor Noble, president of ACTRA National. “The Action Plan sets out to do just that by increasing opportunities for more commercials to be made through the NCA.”

ACTRA has not released exact details of its action plan, but a spokesperson said the initial funding will go to elements that include direct legal action, government relations and organizing efforts. The goal is to “keep commercials made using union talent and take every legal step to stop employers from walking away from a collective agreement.”

This is also being done, ACTRA says, to “fight back against concerted union-busting by some advertising agencies.” Though ACTRA did not name the ICA in its announcement, the spokesperson confirmed that the “concerted union-busting” it was referring to was being done by the ICA, as well as “select ICA agencies.” Scot Knox, president and CEO of the ICA, previously rejected the description of union-busting to strategy, saying what the organization pushed for in negotiations was necessary to “level the playing field” with non-signatory agencies to the NCA.

A new NCA, which dictates how ACTRA members are to be engaged for commercial work, was reached in April, though it no longer included the ICA as a co-administrator. The ICA’s position is that the NCA has expired; ACTRA’s position is that, in refusing to recognize the NCA, the ICA is engaged in a lockout of its members.

In May, ACTRA filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board alleging the ICA bargained in bad faith by insisting on an opt-out provision in the NCA, which it says would reduce the scope of its bargaining rights, to the point of causing an impasse in negotiations.

Since then, ACTRA has been making efforts to engage its members and organize to stop what it describes as instances of union-busting in commericals, including a hub of information for its members and a video series.

Last week, the A2C – which represents agencies in Quebec – joined the new NCA, and will be part of negotiations to “modernize and simplify” the agreement.