The Directors Guild of Canada, B.C. District Council, is threatening to launch its first-ever strike against the film and TV industry after yearlong negotiations with employers have broken off as the sides have failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. A strike would effectively shut down production across British Columbia.
The guild, whose current contract expired on March 31, 2021, is asking for a “strike mandate” from its 1,700 members that would authorize a strike if the companies won’t budge from their current bargaining position. That vote will begin on Wednesday and conclude Thursday.
The guild, saying that it’s reached an “impasse” with the companies, maintains that its done “everything in its power – using every tool available – to get a fair deal. The only option now is to seek a strike mandate.”
“For the first time in our history, the DGC BC is calling on its members to vote in favor of a strike,” says Allan Harmon, District Council Chairman of the DGC BC. “We have bargained in good faith for a full year, but the employers’ bargaining team has been unwilling to engage on our most important issues and has kept demanding more and more clawbacks throughout the process. Despite our willingness to compromise on significant issues, they kept moving the goalposts, making it impossible to get a fair deal for our people.”
The guild represents not only directors but also second unit directors, production and unit managers, and those employed in the various assistant director and locations departments, as well as entry-level production assistants.
The employers are represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and the Canadian Media Producers Association, a trade association for independent producers.
The DGC BC says it’s “fighting for respect, fairness and safety for those working under its collective agreement, especially the people in the lowest paid and most vulnerable positions, which includes those from diverse and underrepresented groups in the industry.”
The guild says that the main issues include:
- Minimum wage differentials: As minimum wage goes up, wage rates for lower paid positions should also go up. If the Negotiating Producers do not agree to a set difference between positions, then by the end of this contract term, experienced members beyond entry level may be making minimum wage. This is unacceptable. We need to protect those in our most vulnerable positions at the lower end of the pay scale.
- Payment terms for Covid testing: In the middle of bargaining, the Negotiating Producers arbitrarily and unilaterally implemented terms and conditions related to Covid that were contrary to the terms of our collective agreement and while the terms were being negotiated in bargaining.
- Retroactivity of wages to the expiry of our last contract: Every other union that the Negotiating Producers have reached a collective agreement with in the past two years has received retroactivity. The lack of retroactivity means a lower first year wage increase.
- Producer clawbacks: The Negotiating Producers are trying to take away hard fought benefits currently in the DGC BC collective agreement.
“It is incredibly perplexing and disheartening that the same studios and production companies who are actively engaged in efforts to diversify the workforce and attract folks from underrepresented groups, are, at the very same time, fighting against fair wages and treatment for our entry level employees. These are the very jobs in which these new industry entrants will begin,” said Kendrie Upton, executive director of the DGC BC.
The guild says that it not asking for anything that the companies have not already offered to others in the film industry. The companies, it says, “have been unwilling to address these legitimate concerns, informing DGC BC that it was not prepared to entertain changes that it has now given to other unions, particularly with IATSE in the U.S.
“For example, the Negotiating Producers have paid retroactivity to every union they’ve concluded bargaining with in the last two years. The have refused to agree to this with DGC BC.”
Last May, after the companies told the guild that they would not be available for bargaining for three months, the guild applied for mediation at the Canadian Labour Relations Board, which appointed a mediator who met and received submissions from both sides, and issued recommendations for settlement on August 6.
“The mediator’s recommendations required compromise from both sides,” the guild said. “The DGC BC agreed to the mediator’s recommendations in order to conclude an agreement. The Negotiating Producers rejected the mediator’s recommendations and continued to seek further concessions. The DGC BC held strong.
“The Negotiating Producers’ most recent offer contains clawbacks from both the mediator’s recommendations and their prior offer. The DGC BC countered that offer; the Negotiating Producers rejected the counter without discussion. The parties are at an impasse.”
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