*This story has been updated with a comment from the ICA
A new twist emerged in the ongoing dispute between the Institute of Canadian Agencies and ACTRA late Friday, when it was announced that Quebec’s agency association, the Association of Creative Communications Agencies, A2C, had signed onto the National Commercial Agreement.
The press release announcing the deal said that the A2C, which represents more than 85 agencies in the province, will “join” ACTRA and the Association of Canadian Advertisers “in the renewal of the National Commercial Agreement 2022-2023.” This refers to the one-year agreement signed by ACTRA and ACA in April, and applies only to English language productions.
“We are thrilled to work with A2C to ensure that agencies in Quebec can continue to work with Canada’s top talent,” said ACTRA’s national executive director Marie Kelly in the release. “This underscores the value our members bring to the industry and we applaud A2C for their leadership and commitment to growing our high-quality and competitive advertising industry.”
Much of Canada’s commercial production industry has been uncertain about how or if it could make ads using some of Canada’s top acting talent since late April, when the ICA and ACTRA failed to reach an agreement on a new National Commercial Agreement, which establishes the conditions governing the use of ACTRA talent in commercial production.
The NCA was due to expire at the end of April, and when the ICA and ACTRA failed to negotiate a new agreement, ICA claimed that the old agreement had expired and therefore its members—and any other signatory—were no longer bound by the agreement and were free to start making ads with non-union acting talent.
However, when talks between ICA and ACTRA fell apart, ACTRA signed a new one-year agreement with the Association of Canadian Advertisers and believes their new deal is a continuation of the previous agreement and any signatory to that previous agreement is bound by the new one and therefore only able to use ACTRA talent. (Read our overview story here.)
Since then ACTRA has filed a number of grievances against agencies that have started making ads with non-union talent, and the union has also filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
While Friday’s announcement seemed like a victory for the actors’ union and ACA, it was still unclear Monday what the implications would be: If a Toronto-based agency is a member of the ICA and believes it’s no longer bound by the NCA and able to use non-ACTRA talent, what does that mean for its Montreal office which is an A2C member?
“This agreement will help ensure stability in Quebec’s commercial industry and facilitate fair and plentiful work for Quebec talent in addition of having a voice in modernizing the NCA,” said Dominique Villeneuve, president and CEO of A2C. The A2C did not immediately respond to questions from The Message about the decision.
“It is a shame that A2C has taken the decision to support the new NCA created by ACA and ACTRA rather than stand with us on challenging the contract,” said ICA president and CEO Scott Knox.
The primary sticking point between the ICA and ACTRA was the ICA’s demand that its members be able to opt in and opt out of using ACTRA talent on a project by project basis. Previously, signatory agencies to the NCA could only use ACTRA talent for all projects, while non-signatory agencies were not obligated to use ACTRA talent but could still use them through third party companies. (This aspect was explained in depth here.)
“The NCA gave better terms to those outside it than those who had partnered with the union for decades,” said Knox. “It has also disenfranchised ACTRA members by driving the growth in the non-union sector. That said, it has been created to only bind Quebec agencies and not any other office outside the province.”
“Moving forward, representatives of Quebec agencies will participate in the negotiations between ACTRA and ACA that will take place within the next year in order to modernize the NCA,” said the statement. “A2C will have one representative participate in the discussions as an advisor and facilitator for the Quebec Representatives in the discussions. This agreement will only apply to Quebec agencies.”