ACTRA and ACA sign second one-year renewal of National Commercial Agreement

While its bitter year-long labour dispute with some of Canada’s largest ad agencies drags on, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists has signed another one-year renewal of the National Commercial Agreement with the Association of Canadian Advertisers.

In a joint statement released Tuesday, ACTRA and the ACA said the renewal will provide “stability to the industry” for the next year. “The agreement provides an increase in pay and sets out steps toward modernizing and simplifying the agreement through industry-wide consultations that will take place over the next year,” it said.

The two sides used similar language when announcing the first 12-month renewal of the NCA last year after ACTRA and the Institute of Canadian Agencies—which has been the key employer-side signatory to the NCA for decades—were unable to agree on a new NCA. Little progress has been made since then. (All of our coverage of the ICA / ACTRA labour dispute is available here.)

ACTRA members have been hit hard by lost work, while agency execs say they’ve been able to get by with non-ACTRA talent for their campaigns. However, in recent months, ACTRA has set its sights on ICA clients, including calling for a boycott of big brands like H&R Block, Rogers, Wendy’s, Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and Sleep Country.

The fact ACTRA is applying pressure on marketers despite signing an agreement with the country’s largest marketer-only association speaks to the dispute’s unique circumstances: When ACTRA first called for a boycott of businesses working with agencies involved in the dispute, ACA president and CEO Ron Lund said they were “disappointed by ACTRA’s divisive and disruptive action as industry attempts to work with ACTRA toward a simplified, modernized and competitive agreement.”

While the ACA signed the renewal NCA last year, its members are not bound by it. However ACTRA contends that the renewal with the ACA means the previous National Commercial Agreement remains in effect, and therefore all previous signatories, including the ICA, are still bound by the agreement.

However, a possible crack in the ICA front seemed to appear last month, when Cossette broke ranks with the other agencies and effectively signed its own deal with ACTRA covering the rest of 2023.

The biggest hurdle remains the ICA’s demand that agencies signing onto the NCA can opt out of using ACTRA talent for some projects. However, ACTRA contends such an option would be antithetical to the primary tenets of collective bargaining, and says the ICA is trying to break the union.

“This agreement ensures that Canada’s advertisers and partner agencies can engage ACTRA members on terms that respect and recognize the value professional performers bring to the industry,” said ACTRA national executive director and lead negotiator Marie Kelly, in the statement announcing the renewal. “This has been a challenging year for ACTRA members as the lockout by ICA agencies continues into its 13th month.”

ACTRA declined a request for an interview with Kelly, while neither the ACA or ICA immediately responded to a request for comment.

The new renewal must be approved by the ACA Board and ACTRA members, but negotiators for both sides are recommending ratification.


Top Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

David Brown