The Guild of Directors of Canada, BC District Council, is threatening to launch its first strike against the film and television industry after halting negotiations with employers as the parties failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. A strike would effectively shut down production throughout British Columbia.
The guild, whose current contract expired on March 31, 2021, is seeking a “strike order” from its 1,700 members that would authorize a strike if the companies do not leave their current trading position. Voting will begin on Wednesday and end on Thursday.
The union, saying it had reached a “dead end” with the companies, claims it did “everything in its power – using every available tool – to reach a fair deal. “The only option now is to seek a strike order.”
“For the first time in our history, DGC BC is calling on its members to vote in favor of the strike,” said Allan Harmon, President of the DGC BC Regional Council. “We have been negotiating good faith for a whole year, but the employers’ negotiating team was reluctant to deal with our most important issues and continued to demand more and more clawback throughout the process. “Despite our willingness to compromise on important issues, the goalposts have continued to move, making it impossible for us to reach a just agreement for our people.”
The guild represents not only directors but also second unit managers, production and unit managers, as well as those employed in the various director and location assistant departments, as well as entry-level production assistants.
Employers are represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and the Canadian Media Producers Association, a trade association for independent producers.
DGC BC says it “fights for respect, justice and safety for those who work under its collective agreement, especially for people in the lowest paid and most vulnerable positions, which include people from different and under-represented groups in the industry.”
The union says the main issues include:
- Minimum Wage Differences: As the minimum wage increases, wage rates for lower paid positions should also increase. If the Negotiating Producers do not agree on a specified difference between the positions, then by the end of this contract, experienced members beyond the entry level may have a minimum wage. This is unacceptable. We must protect those in our most vulnerable positions at the lowest end of the pay scale.
- Terms of payment for the Covid test: In the middle of the negotiation, the Negotiating Producers arbitrarily and unilaterally applied terms and conditions regarding Covid that were contrary to the terms of our collective agreement and while the terms were being negotiated.
- Retroactive salaries until the end of our last contract: Every other union with which the Negotiating Producers have entered into a collective agreement in the last two years has retroactive effect. Lack of retroactivity means lower first year salary increase.
- Producer Returns: The Proxual Producers are trying to remove the hard-fought benefits currently in the DGC BC collective agreement.
“It is incredibly confusing and frustrating that the same studios and production companies that are actively involved in efforts to diversify the workforce and attract people from underrepresented groups are simultaneously fighting for fair wages and the treatment of our employees. . “These are exactly the jobs these new entrants will start in,” said Kendrie Upton, Executive Director of DGC BC.
The guild says it is not asking for anything that companies have not already offered to others in the film industry. The companies, he says, “were reluctant to address these legitimate concerns, informing DGC BC that they were unwilling to entertain the changes it has now made to other unions, particularly IATSE in the US.”
“For example, the Producer Negotiators have paid retroactively to each union with which they have entered into negotiations in the last two years. They have refused to agree to this with DGC BC. “
Last May, after companies told the union they would not be available for trading for three months, the union applied for mediation to the Canadian Labor Relations Council, which appointed a mediator who met and received proposals from both sides and issued recommendations for settlement on 6 August.
“The ombudsman’s recommendations required compromise on both sides,” the union said. “DGC BC agreed with the mediator’s recommendations in order to reach an agreement. The Negotiating Producers rejected the mediator’s recommendations and continued to seek further concessions. DGC BC kept strong.
“The most recent offer from the Producer Negotiators contains clawbacks from both the ombudsman’s recommendations and their previous offer. DGC BC rejected this offer. the Producer Negotiators rejected the counter without discussion. “The parties are at a dead end.”