Members of the Directors Guild of Canada, B.C. District Council (DGC BC), which represents thousands of workers in B.C.’s film industry has voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.
The vote held by DGC BC resulted in 92.2 per cent voting in favour with 86.2 per cent of the 1,700 members casting a ballot. This is the first time in the history of the union that a strike vote has been held.
“We thank our members for the solidarity they have shown with this overwhelming mandate. Their strength and resolve make it clear that respect, fairness and safety in the workplace are non-negotiable,” says Allan Harmon, District Council Chairman, DGC BC. “We are fighting to achieve and maintain fundamental rights for everyone working under our collective agreement.”
DGC BC has been engaged in negotiations for a year with the bargaining representatives of producers, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Canadian Media Producers Association. None of the parties have been able to strike a deal.
The major sticking points are around minimum wage differentials, payment terms for COVID testing and retroactivity of wages to the expiry of last contract in March 2021.
DGC BC said they applied for mediation with the Labour Relations Board in May 2021 and the mediator issued recommendations for settlement on August 6. However, the negotiating producers rejected the deal and sought new concessions from DGC BC.
“Their most recent offer contains clawbacks not only from the Mediator’s recommendations, but also from their own November 2021 offer,” DGC BC said in a statement.
The negotiating producers deny the union’s claims. Instead, in a press release issued on April 6, they accused DGC BC of making unreasonable demands when the parties were on the brink of an agreement.
“After being so close to reaching an agreement, the DGC BC then made additional demands and the opportunity for settlement evaporated. Now, the Guild is asking its members to authorize the calling of a strike, based on demands that were not part of the mediator’s recommendations,” the statement reads.
They add that the strike vote will send the wrong message about the viability of film in B.C.
“The DGC BC’s strike authorization vote sends a message of labour uncertainty in the province and seriously jeopardizes British Columbia’s reputation as an attractive location for motion picture production. Considering the potential for labour instability in British Columbia, companies represented by the AMPTP and CMPA may be forced to re-evaluate their plans for basing new productions in the province.”
Though the DGC BC has voted in favour of strike action it does not mean that a strike is imminent. Any job action requires a 72-hour strike notice. The union hopes to use the vote as leverage to get a more acceptable deal from the negotiating producers.