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2014: no rest for the wicked!

Happy new year! So far, 2014 is shaping up to be as hectic as the year that just ended, both in our jobs and on the union front.

CMG president Carmel Smyth with Arnold Amber, president of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

Media workers routinely perform four or five tasks that, until recently, were specialized. I must confess my admiration for members I have met with a remarkable set of skills to deliver content on a variety of platforms and, quite often, in more than one language. It is humbling and, I hope, appreciated.

As a union, we continue to find creative ways to fight excessive workload, crushing deadlines, a rise in temporary jobs and abuse of interns.  More than ever, we are making alliances with other groups and working closely with academics to track and resist damaging trends that undermine our work, and working conditions, and threaten the quality of the programming and reporting we do.

We are stepping up efforts to support media workers who are not (yet) in a union, helping them defend their rights and improve working conditions across the industry. Our campaign for fairness in factual TV production is gaining steam and we are reaching out to all types of media freelancers across the country to join our freelance branch, share resources and knowledge and build clout to resist the ‘divide and conquer’ culture of the industry. If you know anyone in the media who could use the advice or support of our union, please urge them to get in touch with me.

We are also using opportunities at the bargaining table to negotiate progressive contract provisions that enable decent working conditions, good workplace communications and the opportunity to do meaningful work. Members at Thomson Reuters and TFO ratified a new collective agreement in 2013 while those at CBC will be voting on a new collective agreement later this month. Bargaining to renew our collective agreements at ZoomerMedia and TVO is ongoing and we are preparing for negotiations later this year at Shaw Media, the Canadian Press and Pagemasters. Members at Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network recently approved a change to their agreement in order to help the organization deal with higher costs from new conditions in its licence. APTN is a unique service in the world that will need our support – and the support of the public – to continue to make programming by and for Aboriginal people. The Guild is committed to this.

I thank all of the members who participate in bargaining and enforcing collective agreements in their workplace. Your efforts and creativity are appreciated by all Guild members.

In the meantime, we all have a job to do to push back against the rising tide of union bashing. We increasingly find ourselves needing to defend the collective process and all the good work unions do for all Canadians. Recent efforts have focused on boosting the Canada Pension Plan so seniors don’t retire in poverty. We can’t simply assume collective action will sell itself.

On this note, I ask that you take on a small but crucial task in 2014: talk up the value of your union, and unions in general, whenever possible with family, friends and colleagues. We need to reverse the corrosive push by a few well-heeled people and organizations in North America to do away with unions. If we don’t, the next generation – our children and grandchildren – will not have the ability to negotiate the kinds of benefits achievable ONLY by working together.

And then there’s the media bashing. A couple of pieces of federal legislation jeopardize the independence of country’s largest news organization, CBC, including a private member’s bill that would risk the confidentiality of the public broadcaster’s journalistic sources. The Guild will continue to work with allies across the country to improve the conditions for journalism and public broadcasting in Canada.

On a positive note, I was impressed to hear about young Canadians who tweeted and voiced their support for Canadian news, talent and original content – including supporting public broadcasting.

Yes, 2014 will be busy. But it will also be exciting and, dare I say, satisfying. When we work together, each of our loads is lighter and we accomplish more. Looking forward to meeting you in the struggle!

Carmel Smyth
National President

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