ACTRA stages protest outside of Cossette

This is the latest direct action the actor's union has taken during what it has described as a lockout by several ad agencies.
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ACTRA, the union representing English-language actors and performers in Canada, held another protest in an effort to get agencies to recognize its National Commercial Agreement (NCA).

On Wednesday, the union staged a protest outside of Cossette’s Toronto office, one of several agencies it alleges are engaged in a lockout of performers by not recognizing the NCA. In addition to dozens of ACTRA members, the protest was also attended by several Toronto-area politicians, including MPP Jill Andrew, MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam, city councillor Paula Fletcher and city council candidate Ausma Malik.

Signs bore messages to “end the lockout,” “respect the performers” and “come back to the table.”

The protest was the latest direct action the actor’s union has taken since April, when the Institute of Canadian Agencies didn’t recognize a new National Commercial Agreement negotiated by ACTRA and the Association of Canadian Advertisers. The ICA’s position has been that the NCA has expired and its members are not bound to its terms. ACTRA says this constitutes a lockout of its members by ad agencies, a description the ICA has rejected.

In July, ACTRA began what it described as a series of planned direct actions that more directly called out individual agencies it says were participating in the lockout. It held protests at the Toronto office of Leo Burnett, as well as Cossette Vancouver.

A spokesperson for Cossette says that the agency “[puts its] faith in the ICA to negotiate on behalf of the entire marketing communications industry.”

Other agencies on ACTRA’s list of those participating in the lockout BBDO, DDB, FCB, Grey, Leo Burnett, John St., Juniper Park\TBWA, McCann, Ogilvy, Publicis, Sid Lee, Taxi and Wunderman Thompson. The Quebec-based offices of Cossette and Sid Lee are excluded from the list, as the A2C – which represents Quebec ad agencies – joined the NCA in June. Agencies have either not commented on the NCA, or deferred to the ICA and its role in leading negotiations.

At issue with the NCA is the inclusion of an “opt out” clause to the terms of the NCA. While ACTRA says this would be an obvious reduction its bargaining rights, the ICA has maintained such as clause is necessary to “level the playing field” with other agencies that have utilized an article in the NCA that allows them to abide by it only when they please.

This was also the subject of an Ontario Labour Relations Board complaint filed by ACTRA in May, which said that arguing for an opt-out clause to the point that it caused an impasse in negotations amounted to bad-faith bargaining.

A meeting with an Ontario Labour Relations Board mediator in July failed to end the dispute. The next meeting is scheduled for October, where it is expected the Board will decide its stance on the ICA’s claim that it doesn’t have jurisdiction over commercial agreements.

This story was updated at 2:36 p.m. with comment from Cossette.

Featured image by ACTRA Toronto.

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