Canadian Tire Guy has a new gig as ACTRA Guy

Canada’s actors union, ACTRA, has launched a new salvo in its ongoing labour dispute with the Institute of Canadian Agencies and ad agencies that say they are no longer bound by the long-standing NCA to only use ACTRA talent in their commercials and advertising.

The union and the Association of Canadian Advertisers both say that the new one-year National Commercial Agreement they signed in late April is binding for all those who signed the previous agreement—including ad agencies, led by the ICA, that did not sign onto the new agreement.

The deal-breaking issue at the heart of the dispute is the ICA’s insistence that signatory agencies have the option to opt out of using ACTRA talent for some projects. ACTRA has said that is a non-starter that amounts to the ICA trying to break the union. (See our overview explainer here.)

Last week, ACTRA started rolling out a series of videos with recognizable ACTRA members who have featured in ads for brands like RBC, McDonald’s and Canadian Tire. Each spot in the “You’re in Good Company with ACTRA” campaign features an actor sharing personal messages about the importance of solidarity and sticking together to preserve the member protection and benefits of the NCA.

In the nearly two months since the ICA claimed the old National Commercial Agreement had expired, ACTRA has also filed more than 30 grievances (and counting) against former NCA signatory agencies for working with non-ACTRA talent, and filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

“ACTRA continues to pursue all avenues of legal recourse and we will engage in any further legal action our legal counsel may suggest,” said Marie Kelly, ACTRA national executive director.  “We are filing grievances on a regular basis and will continue to do so until the NCA is ratified.”

The first video in the campaign features Jayne Eastwood, who starred in a HomeEquity campaign last year. “Working with the best performers in the industry means the best ads for agencies and your clients,” says Eastwood. “Now don’t your clients deserve the best? Join us and let’s fight for excellence.”

The most recent video, released Monday, features Paul Constable—the instantly recognizable star of many Canadian Tire ads—who brings some humour to the underlying message about the importance of insurance and retirement benefits negotiated into the NCA.

“We are targeting two key groups with these videos—ACTRA members and agencies,” said Kelly. “For our members, we are reminding them of our strength in solidarity and underscoring the importance of the NCA to protect the rights of performers across Canada.

“Our message to agencies reinforces the benefits of using professional performers to make award-winning ads, and how attacking the minimum protections of performers can impact an agency’s reputation and bottom line.”

The new video campaign launched one week after ACTRA announced it has a strategy to “fight back against concerted union-busting by some advertising agencies.” ACTRA said it is committing $1 million from its reserves to fund the plan, including backing legal actions to “stop employers from walking away from a collective agreement to make low-paid commercials, with no benefits or retirement contributions.”

David Brown