‘It’s serious’: B.C. minister says of continuing Hollywood strikes

As the Writers Guild of America (WGA) reached the century mark on the picket line earlier this month, the impacts on the film industry in B.C. continue to mount.

B.C.’s Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport, Lana Popham tells CityNews there are only five active productions in B.C. currently, as the province would usually see about 50 at this time of the year.

“It’s serious,” she said. “[The union] IATSI has about 10,000 workers, and right now, there’s 400 that are being employed. So, it’s a serious situation.”

Popham explains that while there were negotiations over the weekend, the result of the counteroffer that was presented has not been released.

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) also joined the writers last month, who amongst other requests, are pushing major production studios for better compensation.

The effects from the strike trickle down to thousands of other workers, Popham says.

“It’s enormous. … The vendors that supply the film industry — we’re talking the catering companies, the people that are trained to do hair, construction workers that build sets, there’s even the people that are employed to sew the costumes for these productions.”

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“The trickle-down effect is enormous. And so we are seeing many, many people affected here. I think it’s something like 88,000 people are employed in some way by the movie industry,” she said.

While Popham says the government wouldn’t interfere with bargaining, the government is aware there are people who will be having trouble paying their rent, and other essential bills.

“This is starting to affect people’s lives on the ground,” she said, adding that the unions are putting forward funds to help workers live, although it’s “definitely a reduction.”

The WGA, representing 11,500 unionized screenwriters, began strike action on May 2 after failing to reach a new contract agreement with studios. SAG-AFTRA joined the picket lines on July 14.

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