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Guelph, Ont. actor calls labour dispute 'complete nonsense' after being left without work

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A Guelph, Ont. actor says a two-year labour dispute is taking a toll on him, and thousands of other unionized commercial actors in Canada.

In 2022, negotiations for an updated agreement between the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and Institute of Canadian Agencies (ICA) fell apart.

“It’s based on the National Commercial Agreement, and it’s renegotiated every two years. This round of negotiations ended in – well, we were given an offer of a 60 per cent pay cut by the ICA,” said Tim Beresford, who lives in Guelph and is also an ACTRA member.

The ICA says their proposal actually included an immediate eight per cent pay raise.

That association represents all the big advertising agencies, which most commercial actors were working for in Canada, including Beresford.

“I’ve worked for most of the major banks, I was the voice of Toyota, I [worked for] Volkswagen, Lays,” said Beresford.

He has also appeared in Shows like “The Boys” and “Blue Mountain State.”

ICA president Scott Knox declined an interview because of the ongoing dispute before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Instead, Knox pointed CTV News Kitchener to a statement issued by the ICA in September 2023 when both sides last met, which reads in part: “ACTRA instructed members to strike and has consistently encouraged members to remain on strike. Agencies have never prevented ACTRA members from auditioning for productions.”

Beresford denies ICA’s claims.

“I know the ICA has said that ACTRA has told its members to not accept work. Complete nonsense. We are not allowed to accept work because there is no agreement,” said Beresford.

He has always worked construction jobs in tandem with acting gigs. But he’s had to pick up extra shifts on construction sites in order to support his family financially. It’s also helping fund his efforts to stay ready for future opportunities.

“You can’t stop acting. You need to continue training, doing memory work, all these things, so that when an audition arrives you’ll be ready to perform,” he said.

There is a glimmer of hope, though. Last month, Beresford said ACTRA members sat in on Question Period at Queen’s Park, when Labour Minister David Piccini acknowledged the province’s shortfalls when it comes to the situation, and agreed to meet with the union.

That meeting has not happened yet, and the province did not respond to CTV News Kitchener’s request for comment on the situation, but Beresford is hopeful it will still happen.

He’s also hopeful that eventually those commercial acting opportunities will return and that the union will be stronger than ever.

But no matter how good Beresford is at acting, he can’t act happy about the current state of the negotiations, given there is still no resolution in sight.

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