We have recently concluded our 7th week (about 27 days) of face-to-face negotiations with our partners at Canadian Actors’ Equity Association. We completed a good number of administrative changes to the agreement which we trust will benefit both artists and organizations.
The major issues of how to accomplish more inclusivity in the agreement, how to make it respond and be responsive to the shifting nature of how, where and, most importantly by whom, theatre is being made, continue to be where our struggle lies. Change is difficult and often requires taking uncertain paths to accomplish a goal. Equity and their members and PACT and our members have struggled to be more inclusive. It is our belief that in order to be inclusive we must recognize and surrender our privilege and have conditions that are responsive to new methods and people who are creating.
Equity’s major concern about the type of changes we are proposing is (rightly so) what the impact of those changes would be on work opportunities for their members while our concerns are whether they go far enough to give independent voice and access to our institutions. We are unsure if we are doing enough to create space for the voices that have been and continue to be marginalized. We are sure that we need to take the first step to include those voices.
We know that we continue to have these discussions with those new and/or marginalized voices largely (almost completely) excluded from the room. In part because they do not want to be there and in part because the discussions we are having are demand, counter-demand conditions that box in practices. However, what is being asked of us is to destroy the box and let each creative process dictate the conditions and terms. That lack of structure is, of course, the exact thing that is so difficult to accomplish in a traditional collective agreement. Our team spent a day in this last week discussing how we could move the beginnings of radical change forward without sparking fear in Equity or their membership. We talked through the pros and cons of what we were asking them to sign on to and in the end decided that a radical, non-negotiating approach was best to start the change we believe is necessary and healthy for the entire theatre community. While that approach is in an early discussion phase and so will not be discussed in any detail here, it is an approach that is about hearing and acting on the needs of those who are not in the room.
To roughly summarize, this process has been long and there is going to be more time invested in moving to conclusion but this last week has moved us forward in many ways. It also led to a suggestion of a more collaborative approach to working through the beginnings of making radical change. Radical change, however, does not necessarily mean the complete dismantling of an agreement that has lasted decades. It does mean expanding our thinking about the creation of our art and the modernization of the frameworks we place around those creation processes. Frameworks which will support the producing of theatre while ensuring safe & healthy environments, fair payment, ethical treatment and inclusion for all artists at the centre of our art.
It was a difficult week but it was also a week that made significant progress toward a conclusion. We gather again in August and hope that we can continue down the path of change needed to also conclude the agreement.
In the meantime, we remind everyone that we have a letter of continuance in place and that business carries on as usual until we conclude negotiations.
You Labour Relations Team
Eleanor Antoncic, Ivan Habel and Luke Reece