Directors Guild Of Canada BC Strike Deadline Passes, But Due To A Quirk In Canadian Law, All Filming Continues

The Directors Guild of Canada BC’s strike deadline has now passed. Asked if the guild is on strike, a spokesperson told Deadline that “the answer isn’t as simple” in British Columbia, where in 2008 the BC Labor Board imposed safe harbor agreements upon the industry to provide for labor stability during collective bargaining. In any case, film and TV production continues unabated in the province.

Taking advantage of this quirk in Canadian law, every film and TV show currently in production in British Columbia has signed a safe harbor agreement, allowing them to go on shooting as long as they abide by its terms. If and when a collective bargaining agreement is ultimately reached, they’ll have to abide by its terms as well.

But as of 3:10 this afternoon, the guild said it will now take “labor action” against any production not covered by a safe harbor agreement. So far, however, there aren’t any that haven’t signed. Filming isn’t affected anywhere else in Canada, either. In Toronto, which like British Columbia is also a major filming destination, directors and their crews are represented by a different DGC district council, which has its own separate contracts and is not threatening a work stoppage.

When contract talks stalled for the last time, the DGC BC issued a “strike notice” on Tuesday at 3:10 pm. “Since that time,” the spokesperson said, “no further safe harbor agreements have been signed. All productions currently filming in BC have safe harbor protection. Any production that has signed and complies with the terms of a safe harbor agreement is protected from labor action. Labor action can be implemented any time after 3:10 pm today on productions not covered by safe harbor agreements. All labor action will be decided upon and coordinated by the DGC BC.”

The guild had been bargaining for a new contract, on and off, for over a year with management’s AMPTP and the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA). When the talks stalled, the guild asked its members for a “strike mandate,” which was granted overwhelmingly (92.2% in favor) on April 8. Armed with this strike authorization, the DGC BC returned to the bargaining table with the companies’ reps on April 25 in a last-ditch effort to reach a fair deal. Those talks broke off on Tuesday, and the guild then issued a 72-hour “strike notice.” Those 72 hours were up as of this afternoon at 3:10 PDT.

According to the guild, the key issues that remain outstanding are:

• Minimum wage differentials: as minimum wage increases, so should all wage rates of lower-paid positions.
• Payment terms for Covid testing.
• Retroactivity of wage increases to the expiry of the last collective agreement.
• The Negotiating Producers’ demands for further concessions

Those issues, the guild said, “primarily impact the lowest paid and most vulnerable positions.” The DGC BC represents directors, 2nd unit directors, and production and unit managers, plus those employed in various assistant director and locations departments, as well as entry-level production assistants.

On Tuesday, after the strike notice was issued, Kendrie Upton, executive director of DGC BC, said “We want labor stability, but we need an agreement that provides respect, fairness and safety for everyone working under our contract. 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.”

The next day, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and the CMPA, a trade association for independent producers, issued a joint statement, saying that “Our last proposal to the DGC BC was a fair offer that included substantial improvements for employees working under the Collective Agreement. After meeting with the DGC BC again on April 25, 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.”

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