Negotiations with ACTRA ended by mediator

Negotiations with ACTRA ended by mediator

The following was issued as an open letter to all stakeholders in the Canadian advertising industry on September 20, 2023.

Following two months of mediated negotiations that began on July 11, the ICA is disappointed to report that the mediator has determined that the parties are too far apart to continue with the mediation process.

The ICA negotiated in partnership with the client body, the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) to try and reach agreement. Despite the client voice at the table ACTRA refused almost all proposals presented by the ICA and ACA.

The problem we face today is of ACTRA’s making. ACTRA has created the dominance of the non-union performer sector with its manipulation of Article 3005, which opened a Canadian “backdoor” into the National Commercial Agreement (NCA). In essence, ACTRA has allowed an opt-in/opt-out for non-signatory agencies, brands, and tech giants, thereby creating a significant competitive disadvantage for signatory agencies.

The ACA and ICA have warned ACTRA about this fundamental problem and sought to address the issue in every round of negotiations and almost every quarterly town hall meeting since 2008. By and large, ACA and ICA’s proposals fell on deaf ears and the problem has only worsened over time. As such and as we have told ACTRA repeatedly, coming clean and finally meeting their long-standing commitment of properly enforcing exclusive access to ACTRA performers for signatory agencies is no longer enough to restore balance to the industry.

Since 2021 the ICA has been clear that it was not only an amendment to 3005 that was needed but the establishment of alternative remuneration packages that would enable signatory agencies to compete with non-signatory agencies and bring low budget productions back to ACTRA talent.

At the same time, the ICA and ACA has offered significant improvements to compensation under the NCA for the majority of productions. We have no interest in gutting the NCA. On the contrary, we want to strengthen the NCA and work together with ACTRA to push back against the growing dominance of non-union.

Unfortunately, because of the backdoor into the NCA, there now exists a dominant non-union talent pool that delivers the performances advertisers are happy with. And with no advertiser being a signatory to the NCA an advertiser is free to choose either union or non-union by choice of signatory or non-signatory agency.

If the ICA was to sign the NCA deal that ACTRA wants, the speed of exit by advertisers from union to non-union would accelerate dramatically. ACTRA members would lose more work that they had in 2021. It would usher in the end of union commercial performance in Canada.

ACTRA continues to refer to this dispute as a “lockout”. This is simply untrue. It is ACTRA that has repeatedly instructed its members not to work for signatory agencies. ACTRA instructed members to strike and has consistently encouraged members to remain on strike. Agencies have never prevented ACTRA members from auditioning for productions.

The ICA and its agencies stand united in fighting for long term and sustainable union performance work for Canadian Performers and Agencies. We continue to hope that ACTRA will join us to bring our industry back into balance. With this in mind and in the spirit of openness the ICA is publishing the last proposal document it sent to the ACTRA team. We want Performers, Casting, Producers, Advertisers and Agencies to see what ACTRA declined.

Proposals included:

  • An immediate 8% pay rise.
  • An increase in digital fees.
  • A short-term pilot project to test bringing lower budget TV back to union members – this would create more work opportunities for ACTRA members and agencies.
  • An independent committee to investigate systemic issues on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • A jointly funded campaign to protect Performers and Creatives against Artificial Intelligence.
  • A virtual advertising agency created to showcase the value of using ACTRA and to encourage performers to join the union.

We trust ACTRA members will avoid the lure of propaganda and carefully reflect on the reality of the situation facing our industry. It is time for all of us – performers, agencies, clients, and our representatives to work together to create a stable future for unionized commercial productions in Canada. Contrary to ACTRA’s message, the ICA wants to build ACTRA’s membership and restore work to ACTRA members.

Scott Knox (
President & CEO

PDF Download: 

ACA ICA September 11 2023.pdf