Canadian performers representative ACTRA won a preliminary battle in its labour dispute with Canadian and US producers when the Superior Court of Ontario today dismissed an injunction application from the Canadian Film & Television Production Association (CFTPA).

The CFTPA was asking the court to deem illegal the letters of continuation producers had signed individually with ACTRA in order to keep productions shooting despite ACTRA's January 8 strike action.

In her decision, Judge Sarah Pepall declined to rule on the legality of the letters. She said the CFTPA had failed to establish the continuation letters would cause the producers' association 'irreparable harm.'

However, the judge did agree to the CFTPA's request regarding arbitration. She gave both sides two weeks to find a mutually acceptable arbitrator to help negotiate a new independent production agreement.

ACTRA chief negotiator Steven Waddell wasted no time in issuing a statement:
'These fruitless legal strategies are diversionary tactics designed by the CFTPA to avoid facing the real issues up front and head on,' Waddell said.

'It's time for the CFTPA to accept ACTRA's four-point offer to settle all outstanding issues and get this agreement done, so that the industry can get back to work.'

The CFTPA followed suit with its own claim of victory.

'The CFTPA is pleased with the decision of the court which validates the integrity of the Negotiating Protocol. This is truly a win for the industry and may be the catalyst required to get a deal done,' said John Barrack, chief negotiator for the CFTPA 'The matter of the illegal strike and continuation letters will be dealt with in arbitration, where it belongs.'

Meanwhile, the strike is now set to expand beyond Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, as actors in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Alberta were given the green-light to join the strike by the end of February. Actors in British Columbia are represented by the Union of BC Performers; they are currently in separate negotiations with producers under a press blackout. Their contract expires March 31.

Judge Pepall's written decision gives a sense of the pressure brought to bear by US producers in the negotiation. At one point she dismisses the deposement of Barrack as consisting of 'bald assertions, speculation and suggestions of harm that are rather amophous in nature or lacking in detail and specificity. [Barrack] deposes that he has been advised by representatives from Sony Pictures and Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group that they have declined to film certain sequels in Montreal and Toronto respectively 'for fear of a strike or lockout' and that filming will 'likely be shifted' to certain US states. This is wholly insufficient to ground the granting of an injunction '