Resolution in ACTRA-ICA dispute pushed to 2023

The OLRB has split the case in order to first deal with the ICA's argument about proper jurisdiction.
ACTRA

A hearing some may have hoped would have brought an end to the months-long labour dispute between ACTRA and the ICA instead put the earliest date for a tribunal-decided resolution well into the new year.

In a decision published on Oct. 28 and recently posted publicly, the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that the most appropriate path forward would be to resolve differing opinions about its jurisdiction over a complaint made by the actor’s union, pushing resolution to the spring of 2023.

According to the decision, during an Oct. 12 hearing, the ICA – as well as the member agencies also listed as respondents – argued that the OLRB does not have jurisdiction over the matter. Echoing statements it has made since the dispute began in the spring, the ICA argued that the National Commercial Agreement (NCA) that governs how ad agencies are to engage actors for commercial work is not a collective agreement, that performers working under the NCA are not employees and that the Institute of Communication Agencies or its member agencies are not employers within the meaning of the Act.

Because of this, the ICA proposed that the hearings be split in order to deal with the jurisdictional issue first, as its outcome may make it unnecessary to hear the merits of ACTRA’s complaint.

ACTRA opposed this, saying the case should be heard as a whole. But the OLRB supported the approach, leading to the parties discussing and agreeing upon how the jurisdictional issue is to be litigated. The OLRB did not, however, agree to or reject the ICA’s assertion that it does not have jurisdiction over the complaint.

Earlier this month, ACTRA was to submit a letter outlining why it believes the OLRB has jurisdiction and addressing the ICA’s relevant claims. Next month, the ICA and other respondents in the complaint will submit its own reasoning for jurisdiction, as well as a response to ACTRA’s position. More responses will follow in January, with an agreed upon statement of facts being delivered in February.

Hearings will then take place on March 9, 29 and 30 and April 5 and 25.

Since the spring, ACTRA has alleged that the ICA and its member agencies are engaged in a lockout of its members, which include 28,000 actors and performers in Canada. At issue is an “opt-out clause” that would allow signatories to engage ACTRA talent under the NCA if and when they pleased. ACTRA says this is a clear reduction in the scope of its collective bargaining rights, while the ICA has insisted this is necessary in order to “level the playing field” between its members and newer agencies that have been able to engage ACTRA talent using third-party signatories.

ACTRA filed a complaint with the OLRB in May, alleging the ICA insisting on something that reduced the scope of its collective bargaining rights to the point of impasse amounted to bad-faith bargaining. Mediation sessions held since then have not resulted in any progress, even as actors begin to feel the financial pressure of lost commercial work.

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