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Posted Date: 06 August 2009 at 05:01:34PM



The Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) has said that MEAA's announcement of an actor's ‘strike' from tonight 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 behavior 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 from the SPAA/MEAA Offshore Commercials Agreement. MEAA have been aware of our issues with the Agreement for at least two years. We have raised concerns with MEAA on several occasions since 2007 and SPAA members have asked repeatedly for variations to the Agreement in order to secure work, but such approval has often been delayed and, in many cases, denied by MEAA.


"The alternative - that does nothing for the wider Australian industry but works for some performers - has been to accept contracts to film the commercial in New Zealand where the performer is free to negotiate their fees outside the MEAA/SPAA Offshore Agreement.


"It is important to note that domestic TVC production successfully operates delivering value for performers and advertising clients without a separate agreement above and beyond the - particular industrial award. Good fees are still paid and there is no issue of exploitation of actors. This is a lucrative source of work for local actors. SPAA is simply looking to establish similar conditions for offshore commercials.


"SPAA has enormous respect for performers and the value of their work. This decision is not about forcing the lowest price: the international market finds our Agreement confusing and inflexible in a variety of ways, including formulaic terms for buyouts/usages and numbers of edits of a commercial. This makes it much more difficult to employ actors in Australia than our competitor countries such as New Zealand, South Africa or Canada. Our producers will still be offering very good fees to actors and SPAA will be providing producers with a guide to underlying conditions.


"Further, MEAA refers to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald. The story was NOT about relative production costs but rather agency costs."


Carolyn Starkey, an Executive Producer with leading TVC company, Verve Films, said commercials productions was the economic lifeblood of the Australian screen industry, providing regular income for large and small screen businesses and screen professionals and opportunities for training young Australians.


"It's the goal of Australian commercials producers to maintain a sustainable production industry in this country, one that employs Australian workers and engages Australian businesses. Anyone who has been working in the offshore sector for the past several years knows it has been in a state of decline. We feel that the loss of this sector would have an extremely negative effect on the economy of the screen industry and arts and culture more broadly," she said.





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