Labour Day 2020

Dear ACTRA Members,

Labour Day marks an important time for us to be thankful for and proud of the strong and respected presence unions have in Canada. Each year, we reflect on the history of our labour movement and celebrate the labour activists who came before us. Through negotiation and protest, sacrifice and personal risk, they helped to achieve the many protections and benefits we, as workers, receive in Canada today. Given the challenges we have faced this year, I know we are all especially grateful to have a strong union of like-minded professional artists behind us as we navigate this tough business.

Although we will not be coming together in person at a Labour Day parade or an ACTRA Branch event this year, we can still celebrate and respect the work our union has done on behalf of members, even in these tough times.

The COVID-19 crisis has been unpredictable and fast-evolving. Through extensive lobbying, we were able to see artists and other self-employed, gig economy workers included in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) launched by the federal government this past spring. This time of crisis has also shown us how adaptable, resilient and generous our members can be with their time and talent as performers have stepped up to help each other and to entertain our nation during the lockdown. We can truly have hope for our future as we continue to navigate these changing times.

Ending anti-Black racism and committing to lasting change as it impacts equality and inclusion within our industry is an important priority we are focused on. We will continue to work with organizations from across our sector, guided by our diverse member leaders, to see that opportunities for Black and Diverse members are increased and more accessible.

Our staff, working from home while caring for their own families, have continued to ensure commercial residual payments, and ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society and UBCP/ACTRA royalties are received by members across the country. Additionally, your union was able to convince the government that up to $1,000/month of such earnings should be exempt from CERB eligibility to help the many artists who struggle to pay their rent and put food on the table during this pandemic. The government has been listening and has now announced a further extension of the CERB along with plans for new recovery benefits launching in October, including paid sick leave, to help get us through the likely tough times ahead (please note these recovery benefits still require parliamentary approval and Parliament has been prorogued until September 23).

For months, your union has also been working with people from across the industry to help get us ready to return to work in the safest way possible. Precautions followed by each of us at home and on set will see work opportunities return and continue to grow. The world, and all the streaming services, are hungry for new, excellent content. If we all have patience with one another and put our health first, the return to work will no doubt be successful.

Work under the newly ratified Ubisoft Video Game Agreement has already begun with members returning to volumes and sound booths in both Montreal and Toronto. Our member negotiators did an excellent job speaking on behalf of their fellow performers in what was at times a difficult bargaining experience. Next year will see ACTRA return to the bargaining table to renegotiate our NCA and CBC Television and Radio Agreements. You can also expect focus groups to be re-established to address the post-COVID workplace and improved anti-Black racism, diversity and inclusion provisions in these agreements.

Each week brings new twists and turns to 2020, but the work of the labour movement has prepared your union to engage in and adapt to important issues and to respond to unpredictable events. So remember, in good times and bad, we have a collective commitment to step up for each other and to build a union that will continue to protect and defend future generations of artists in Canada.

Stay healthy! I wish everyone from coast to coast to coast a safe and happy Labour Day and better success in the months and year to come.

In solidarity,
David Sparrow