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SPAA Letter to Performers

Posted Date: 10 August 2009 at 05:52:35PM

10 August 2009

 

Dear Performer,

 

You will be aware the SPAA/MEAA Commercials Offshore Agreement, which set out additional terms and conditions for contracting of Australian performers for international commercials, ceased to be in effect from August 7 2009.

 

SPAA holds Australian performers in high regard and did not take this serious step in any ‘cavalier' manner. In fact, SPAA has expressed its concerns about the decline of the international TVC sector to MEAA for more than two years.

 

SPAA's decision to withdraw from the Agreement is about capturing more work and re-building opportunities in the Offshore TVC sector for all industry participants.

 

The facts are that Offshore TVC sector is depressed, our brand internationally is compromised and the SPAA/MEAA TVC Offshore Agreement hasn't been working. We also know that our domestic TVC sector works well with no additional binding performer agreement, instead performer fees are negotiated with the market expectations of all parties well understood. Usage for these commercials is also often cleared for overseas. SPAA members have looked at how the domestic sector operates and simply want the same effective system to be applied to offshore commercials production.

 

SPAA does not seek to undermine work practices. With the Agreement no longer in effect, Producers can instead put different offers to performers and or their agents for each person to consider.

SPAA believes we can build a more prosperous TVC sector in 2010.

 


STATE OF TVC OFFSHORE SECTOR

 

A recent SPAA survey found Australian TVC companies pitched for but lost more than $60M of offshore commercials work in the past 12-18 months. If Australia had secured just half of this production, it would have meant hundreds of jobs for actors, crews and productions companies.

 

The reality is that despite the best intentions of the parties, the Commercials Offshore Agreement has been working as a barrier to employment.

 

The offshore industry is an export industry and as such we compete internationally. The SPAA/MEAA Offshore Agreement was a very different agreement to all others in place between SPAA & MEAA and has no equivalent in USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa or the UK.

 

The TVC Sector internationally is undergoing immense change. Media use, value of traditional media, segregation and mix of territories, campaign structures and advertising budgets are increasingly variable. International agencies have been telling us that, despite the appeal of using Australia's highly regarded performers, our world class crews, production facilities and diverse locations, they have been choosing to make commercials in competitor countries such as New Zealand, South Africa and Canada because it has been too expensive, inflexible and complex to employ actors here.

 

The Australian TVC industry cannot compare itself with the US, just as our film and television sector can't compare itself with the US. Canada, New Zealand and South Africa are our direct competitors.

At the moment we're in a ridiculous situation where Australian actors are being flown to NZ for offshore commercials. It doesn't make sense to lose these jobs and export dollars.

 


WHY END THE TVC OFFSHORE PERFORMERS AGREEMENT

 

The Offshore Agreement between SPAA and MEAA signed in 1999, was intended to attract business to Australia by standardizing rates and delivering certainty, transparency and competitiveness. However, the SPAA/MEAA Agreement is not working. SPAA has acted according to the Agreement and given 45 days notice to end the Agreement.

 

SPAA has enormous respect for performers. 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.

 


WHY NOT NEGOTIATE WITH MEAA?

 

SPAA members are about attracting jobs and economic activity to Australia. MEAA advised in October 2004 that it was not.

 

"The intention from the Alliance's perspective is not that the Offshore Agreement generates work in the Australian industry. The intention of this agreement is that performers are paid appropriately for this work when it is undertaken."

 

SPAA was never comfortable with the terms of the revised 2004 Agreement. After a long and difficult negotiation that strained our business relations internationally we signed the Agreement. In good faith we agreed to give it a try. But it just did not work. To make matters worse, the market has become even more competitive since 2004.

In 2007, SPAA met and subsequently wrote to MEAA expressing concern with aspects of the Agreement requesting further discussion and consideration by the National Performers Committee, MEAA did not respond.

Since then, SPAA members and their representatives have asked repeatedly for variations to the Agreement in order to secure work, but such approval has often been delatyed and in many cases denied by MEAA. The fact that so many variations have been sought clearly indicates that the Offshore Agreement is being ‘honoured' in the breach. Moreover, SPAA is no longer prepared to accept the role for the MEAA as the gatekeeper on Offshore TVCs.

 

This process has been problematic not least because international bids require fast turnaround, usually only a few days.

 

Our industry is small and struggling. If we want to keep its doors open, we need to get back in there and fight for the work that we've missed out on. Canada, New Zealand and South Africa regularly outbid Australia.

 


ALL OTHER SPAA/MEAA AGREEMENTS REMAIN

 

SPAA is aware that many performers are concerned that the decision to end the Commercial Agreement is a precursor to SPAA terminating other agreements it has with MEAA. This is NOT the case.

 

The decision to withdraw from the TVC Offshore Agreement was made by the TVC Division of the SPAA Council and is a consequence of international market conditions for the TVC sector. It has NO bearing on other SPAA/MEAA agreements. MEAA has suggested that SPAA has an agenda to withdraw from other agreements. This is inflammatory and simply not true.

 

SPAA will retain its MPPA, AFFA, ATPA, and ATRRA agreements.

 

It should also be noted that the Offshore Commercials Agreement was never an industrial Agreement and performers working on offshore and domestic TVCs will continue to be protected by Award conditions.

 


SPAA IS WORKING TO ATTRACT MORE JOBS

 

The Offshore Agreement is inflexible and has resulted in our actors missing out on work on big budget international TV commercials. SPAA is confident that ending this Agreement will give actors the opportunity to work more regularly and increase their annual earnings overall.

 

Jobs are a top priority for SPAA - jobs for actors, jobs for crews and jobs for production companies.

From now on, producers will be seeking to negotiate with local performers, just as Advertising Agencies do for domestic TVC production. It's important to know 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 and crews. SPAA is simply looking to establish similar conditions for offshore commercials.

 

What we're talking about is creating opportunities for actors to earn thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, for less than a week's work in Australia. And when the work is brought to Australia, there's an economic stimulus for the whole production community and indeed for the entire Australian economy.

 


CASTING OPPORTUNITIES

 

SPAA believes there will be significant new work opportunities and invite performers to consider what is on offer.

SPAA respects performers' rights to accept or reject attendance to auditions or contract terms offered to them in relation to Offshore TVC work.

 

Regardless of what you decide, it is worth considering that the system SPAA members are moving to is the same system performers already work within for domestic TVC production. We think it's only fair to offer the same rules that our local clients enjoy to our international business partners.

 

It is important to note that no one can tell you not to go to an audition or to accept work. Industrial action in relation to the Offshore sector has at this time no legal protection and any effort to intimate, harass or mislead people into thinking they cannot accept offers of work is open to serious legal challenge.

 


WINNING PRODUCTION

 

Long-term sustainability for the industry will not be achieved if we simply begin a race to the bottom on price. Every commercial is different. To attract production many factors, in addition to cost, are at play; the reputation of individuals, depth of creative talent, services and facilities, ease of locations, general infrastructure and security and, most importantly, a desire to do business.

 

The fact is that actors aren't being paid at all for all those commercials we're missing out on.

 

Australia's TVC sector is being watched internationally. SPAA has signaled we want to do business as a professional industry. SPAA members have offered to stand by additional employment conditions above and beyond those available to the domestic sector but we cannot bind members to minimum commercial rates that are impervious and inflexible to the market in which they apply.

 

Other sectors of the industry are tightening their belts and agreeing to negotiate flexible terms in order to secure work, including crew, post production companies, directors and producers. Margins for production companies are being slashed. Production companies face a stark future and equipment is sitting idle with five production companies closing in recent times and others on the brink of closing.

 

SPAA wants a brighter future for all in the Australian TVC sector - producers, performers and technicians. We believe the work is out there, but we need to be bold in order to secure it for our industry.

 

 

Geoff Brown
Executive Director
SPAA

 

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