June 28, 2022
The ICA supports the benefit of a National Commercial Agreement (NCA) with ACTRA that sets the terms of engagement for creative agencies on behalf of advertisers and performing artists.
We regret that ICA and ACTRA were unable to reach agreement in recent negotiations that aimed to modernize the contract and create a level playing field for all Canadian agencies in the way they are permitted to access ACTRA talent.
The NCA that ICA could not agree to renew is unfair to signatory agencies who are obliged to use ACTRA talent on unequal terms compared to non-signatory agencies. Non-signatories can “opt in” and “opt out” of the NCA at will and use ACTRA talent when they wish while retaining the right to work non-union for other productions when it suits them or their clients to do so. These agencies can access ACTRA talent by working through third-party payroll companies who are signatory to the NCA to act as their proxies as needed.
Non-signatories are using a clause that was added to the NCA in 2007 to open opportunities for ACTRA talent to work with international agencies. ACTRA is misusing this clause to permit non-signatories to engage ACTRA talent as convenient without any further obligation to use union talent while at the same time ACTRA requires signatories to only, and always, use ACTRA talent. This double standard enables non-signatories to undercut union rate cards at will to gain competitive advantage. Canadian entities operating this way include non-signatory agencies, in-house client agencies and media companies.
The status quo that ACTRA has enabled is bad for signatory agencies and ACTRA talent. That is why so few new Canadian agencies have become signatory to the NCA since 2007. Why sign an NCA that binds you to using only ACTRA talent when ACTRA lets non-signatories “opt in” and “opt out” at will? Opportunities for signatory agencies and ACTRA talent are declining because ACTRA has created an environment that rewards non-signatory agencies that work non-union. In the past six years union performance in the ad sector has declined 40%.
The ICA’s objective in negotiating a renewed NCA was to close the “opt in” and “opt out” route and ensure more Canadian agencies signed the NCA or, failing that, extend these privileges to all agencies to create a level marketplace. Either outcome would be fairer than the status quo.
ACTRA opted to maintain the status quo in partnership with the ACA and has launched a pressure campaign against the ICA, instead of trying to solve the fundamental problem with the application of the NCA. That pressure campaign includes spreading misinformation, refusing to permit ACTRA talent to work with ICA agencies and legal challenges that the ICA will defend with the objective of bringing more clarity and transparency to the issues.
ICA agencies value our many long-standing relationships with ACTRA talent and admire the award-winning performances they have delivered for client brands. ICA agencies want to use union talent but are currently blocked from doing so by ACTRA leadership.
There is a way out of this impasse. Since ACTRA has been promoting the use of third-party payroll companies as a gateway to access the NCA, why not negotiate a new NCA with these payroll companies as they now represent the biggest growth channel of income for ACTRA members? Why not permit all clients and agencies to access ACTRA talent only through the signatory payroll companies, in accordance with the terms and conditions of an NCA that is negotiated directly with these companies? This way there is one clear route to using ACTRA performers for Canadian agencies which would be fair for all.
All members of the advertising community – including ACTRA and its members -- would benefit from a modernized NCA that provides fair and equal access to ACTRA talent.