B.C. directors guild issues strike notice, thrusting film productions into uncertainty

Productions not covered under safe harbour agreements could face job action within 72 hours

Film crew in Vancouver | Chung Chow, BIV

Some B.C. film and TV productions could be in limbo by week’s end after B.C.’s directors guild issued a strike notice late Tuesday.

The Directors Guild of Canada, B.C. District Council (DGC BC) said negotiations with the negotiating employers – the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — collapsed after meeting a day earlier.

Any productions not covered by safe harbour agreements could face job action by an array of workers – not just film directors – covered under the DGC BC’s collective agreement within the next 72 hours.

The collective agreement covers directors, second unit directors, production and unit managers, and those working in the assistant director and locations departments.

The guild voted 92 per cent in favour of a strike mandate earlier this month amid ongoing tension with producers over issues ranging from retroactive wage hikes to pay differentials that would increase wages for lower-paid positions as the minimum wage goes up across the province.

Producers previously said they might have to reconsider plans for new productions in the province amid potential “labour instability.”

In a joint statement sent to BIV late Wednesday, CMPA and AMPTP said "it is clear that significant differences remain. A path that leads both parties to a deal remains a priority, but the DGC’s choice may impede a resolution in the near future."

“We want labour stability but we need an agreement that provides respect, fairness and safety for everyone working under our contract,” DGC BC executive Kendrie Upton said in a statement.

“We care about this industry. We have always been willing to negotiate. The employers need to do their part and work with us to hammer out a fair deal.” 

Negotiations have been going on more than a year, including mediation conducted with help from the province’s Labour Relations Board (LRB).

Both the guild and employers are blaming the other for the breakdown following recommendations from the LRB’s mediator

The province’s film industry was worth $3.3 billion to the economy in the last fiscal year, according to CMPA data released last week.

The vast majority of B.C.’s production activity was concentrated on foreign service work for mostly Hollywood features and TV shows, generating $2.7 billion. That’s 52 per cent of all foreign service work done in Canada this past year.

Editor's note: This story was updated on April 28 with a response from the negotiating producers.