Australian actors to stop work

06 August, 2009 by IF

By Adam Coleman

Australian actors will refuse to work on offshore TV commercials from midnight tonight unless an agreement protecting their employment conditions is reached with the Screen Producers’ Association of Australia (SPAA).


In June, SPAA announced it would terminate the existing Offshore Commercials Agreement from August 7.

In response, director of the equity section of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), Simon Whipp warned that industrial action could involve picketing casting agents or commercial productions who are seeking to engage performers.

“Strike action is not something we take lightly, but SPAA’s decision to rip up the agreement is an attack on performers’ rights that can not be ignored,” he said.

SPAA production executive, Bethwyn Serow told INSIDEFILM that the Association stood by its decision to terminate the agreement.

“We were not in a position to negotiate the session fees or the usage fees and we said that when we met with them. It is disappointing that couldn’t progress but at the same time we really do have the best intentions of trying to build the industry, which is not strong at the moment,” she said.

Serow also took issue with Equity’s description of the action as a “strike” and warned against picketing.

“You have to question is this really a strike, when there is no employment relationship because these people are not employed.”

“Our interpretation is that some performers might choose not to come to a casting session and that is their personal choice.

“Picketing is not a legal action so that is really provocative. Anyone who ends up interfering with the ongoing workplace there are serious ramifications for that and I certainly hope that no one chooses to do that because it would be very unfortunate,” she says.

Whipp told INSIDEFILM that it was “simply not true” that there is no employment relationship.

“There is a standard contract for the engagement of performers in Australian television commercials. They have terminated that agreement. The standard contract sets out the expectations about use fees, how much the producer can buy up front, what the maximum use is, what happens after that period of time.

“My understanding and our legal advice is that people picketing is entirely lawful and is not regarded as industrial action under the Fair Work Act.”

Simon Burke, Equity president said in a statement: “All we’re asking for is the opportunity to sit down and negotiate an agreement.”

“Actors do not want to be on strike, but SPAA’s refusal to negotiate a fair agreement has left us with no choice.”