TORONTO - Unionized commercial actors are calling on two large advertising firms to sign an agreement that would guarantee minimum pay, benefits and set out working conditions.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists organized rallies Monday in front of the Toronto offices of Leo Burnett and the Vancouver offices of Cossette, saying the firms have refused to renew labour terms covered by the National Commercial Agreement (NCA).

ACTRA says the two companies are among the biggest represented by the Institute of Canadian Agencies (ICA) in a battle to renew a labour deal that expired June 1.

The union says the ICA, which represents 16 advertising, marketing, media and public relations agencies, has argued for the right to opt out of the deal, which covers on-camera and off-camera workers.

ICA president Scott Knox said in a statement that the proposed NCA renewal “is unfair to signatory agencies who are obliged to use ACTRA talent on unequal terms compared to non-signatory agencies.”

Cory Doran, the chair of ACTRA Toronto's voice committee, says the ICA is seeking a 60 per cent pay cut.

ACTRA reached a deal in May with the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), which represents more than 300 companies and divisions for brands including A&W, BMO, L'Oreal, McDonald's and Coca-Cola. The deal includes a two per cent increase to all fees and rates until June 2023.

But in the absence of a deal with the ICA, Doran says members cannot work with brands involved in the impasse, which comes on the heels of a pandemic-induced slowdown.

“I've had to speak with lots of concerned members, they're being evicted,” says Doran, an actor for nearly 20 years with commercial work for brands including Tim Hortons, Ford and Canadian Tire.

“These are families, these are people with kids, and none of them can work right now. They're not allowed to work in these companies. Many of them who have been the faces or voices for these campaigns for products for years.”

A public relations campaign features video appeals from ACTRA members including Jean Yoon of “Kim's Convenience,” veteran stage and screen star Jayne Eastwood and actor Paul Constable, known for a series of Canadian Tire ads.

An actor's commercial fees depend on several factors including how prominent the role is, whether it's a speaking part or silent, if it's on-camera or a voice-over, and the time of day and for how long the commercial airs.

The NCA guarantees about $3,200 for the star of a national TV ad that airs 13 weeks, however agents and performers can negotiate more.

ACTRA represents more than 28,000 members across the country.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2022.