The Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) has said that MEAA’s announcement of an actor’s ‘strike’ from last night is both misleading and mischievous.
“You cannot strike if you are not employed. MEAA should be well aware of the laws that relate to industrial action. SPAA has received advice that MEAA may be seeking to mislead performers and their agents that there is some form of legal strike in operation and that they are somehow prevented from accepting employment with SPAA members. Our advice is that any form of behaviour by the union which seeks or encourages unlawful industrial action is a potential offence under the Fair Work Act,” said Geoff Brown, Executive Director of SPAA.
“SPAA has not been ‘cavalier’ in making the decision to withdraw fromthe SPAA/MEAA Offshore Commercials Agreement. MEAA have been aware ofour issues with the Agreement for at least two years. We have raisedconcerns with MEAA on several occasions since 2007 and SPAA membershave asked repeatedly for variations to the Agreement in order tosecure work, but such approval has often been delayed and in many casesdenied by MEAA.
“The alternative – that does nothing for the wider Australian industrybut works for some performers – has been to accept contracts to filmthe commercial in New Zealand where the performer is free to negotiatetheir fees outside the MEAA/SPAA Offshore Agreement.
“It is important to note that domestic TVC production successfullyoperates delivering value for performers and advertising clientswithout a separate agreement above and beyond the particular industrialaward. Good fees are still paid and there is no issue of exploitationof actors. This is a lucrative source of work for local actors. SPAA issimply looking to establish similar conditions for offshorecommercials.
“SPAA has enormous respect for performers and the value of their work. This decision is not about forcing the lowest price: the internationalmarket finds our Agreement confusing and inflexible in a variety ofways, including formulaic terms for buyouts/usages and numbers of editsof a commercial. This makes it much more difficult to employ actors inAustralia than our competitor countries such as New Zealand, SouthAfrica or Canada. Our producers will still be offering very good feesto actors and SPAA will be providing producers with a guide tounderlying conditions.
“Further, MEAA refers to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald. Thestory was NOT about relative production costs but rather agency costs.”
Carolyn Starkey, an Executive Producer with leading TVC company VerveFilms, said commercials productions was the economic lifeblood of theAustralian screen industry, providing regular income for large andsmall screen businesses and screen professionals and opportunities fortraining for young Australians.
“It’s the goal of Australian commercials producers to maintain asustainable production industry in this country, one that employsAustralian workers and engages Australian businesses. Anyone who hasbeen working in the offshore sector for the past several years knows ithas been in a state of decline. We feel that the loss of this sectorwould have an extremely negative effect on the economy of the screenindustry and arts and culture more broadly,” she said.