AQTIS members strike a day on Thursday


(Montreal) AQTIS image and sound technicians disengaged for a day on Thursday, affecting television and film productions.

Lia Lévesque
The Canadian Press

On the management side, Hélène Messier, president and CEO of the Quebec Media Production Association, confirmed in an interview that a dozen film sets had to suspend their activities. The other plateaus simply moved their filming day, since a strike notice had previously been sent, as it should be.

AQTIS represents some 6000 members, cameramen, sound artists, make-up artists, hairdressers and others, who work on the production of soap operas, television series, documentaries and films, in Quebec and sometimes abroad.

These workers are freelancers. They also claim to have guaranteed contracts, said Gilles Charland, general manager of the AQTIS (Alliance québécoise des technicians of image and sound).

Several negotiation sessions have been held to date with the Quebec Association of Media Production, which brings together private producers. But AQTIS wanted to increase the pressure on employers by holding this day of strike.

"This is a warning shot to all producers and also to the government, to make them aware of the deterioration of working conditions for several years technicians," said Mr. Charland.

Issues include compensation, occupational health and safety issues, training and qualifications, and hiring priority.

Mme Messier argues that this industry is struggling, like that of the media, with a decline in advertising revenue. In the case of television and film productions, this adds to a drop in audiences, new listening habits, as well as a stagnation or even a decline in some funds.

"Telefilm Canada's money for feature film financing at the production level has not been increased in 20 years. If we had budgets over time Girls of Caleb on the order of 1 or 1.1 million to make an hour of drama; we now have $ 455,000. And documentary budgets have dropped 40% in 10 years, "said Mme Messier.

The law governing the members of the AQTIS makes a minimum wage is established and it is up to the technician to negotiate a higher salary, according to his experience and expertise, explains Mr. Charland. "Sometimes, minimum wages increase, under collective agreements, but technicians working above the minimum wage never see the effects of these increases," he complains.

Mr. Charland confirms that governments play a major role in the funds available to the industry. "Financing, it is public in vast majority. There are demands for the government to invest more in culture in Quebec, "said the unionist.

Union members from AQTIS gathered at the Place des Festivals in downtown Montreal to mark Thursday afternoon.

"If such actions were to multiply, obviously it would jeopardize production. So, this is obviously not what we want. We want the public to be able to continue to enjoy Quebec programs and the feature films they like, "said Mme Messier.

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