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CBC management falls from grace at Heritage Committee

CBC’s senior management team came under attack from all parties today, when the federal Heritage Committee examined the 8-week lockout. During the confrontational meeting, senior managers were criticized for :

– making the decision to impose the lockout without informing the Heritage Minister directly or in writing
– appearing not to bargain in good faith
– rushing to a lockout
– taking out expensive ads during the lockout
– taking programs off the air and denying service to the public
– not beginning discussions with the government about CBC’s parliamentary appropriation for 2006, despite the fact that the government’s budget “pie is already being divided up.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus criticized senior management’s approach as a “cowboy way of doing business.”

“There is no confidence in you around the table. These MPs have no compliments to pay you,” Bloc Qu?b?cois MP Carole Lavall?e told CBC president Robert Rabinovitch. She later accused him of “using lockouts to get control.”

Despite several questions about how they would improve relations with employees, the management team never responded directly or laid out a plan. “Are members of the CMG your partners or your adversaries?” asked Liberal MP Sarmite “Sam” Bulte.

Rabinovitch, as well as VPs Richard Stursberg and George Smith, came out aggressively during the hearing and said the union shared the responsibility for the lockout.

“We deny any responsibility for the lockout,” said CBC branch president Arnold Amber. “It was the CBC’s aggressive stance at the bargaining table and their strategy all along to lock us out that caused it.”

“CBC management insisted a lockout was necessary because there was going to be a strike,” said Guild president Lise Lareau. “What they never talked about was a third option: negotiating a fair deal with no work stoppage. The fact is, the deal we ended up with would have possible without a strike or lockout. They refused to compromise on their positions on the main issues until the final weekend of the lockout.”

Rabinovitch said he had it on good authority that the union was planning to on strike and it would affect the CBC right up until December, and even the Turin Olympics . The union took a strike vote in July and, according to Federal labour law, that strike mandate would have expired September 6. A post-September strike call was not in the cards.

Board chair Guy Fournier was interviewed by the media after the hearing and contradicted Rabinovitch’s testimony. “There was never a vote taken on the lockout at the board,” he said. “We should have had a formal vote.”

The Heritage Committee did not have time in today’s meeting to deal with motions about the lockout. The committee has asked CBC management to answer in writing all the questions that were not answered directly during the session.

Management was also asked to provide a balance sheet of lockout spending and savings after Stursberg claimed that the CBC didn’t save any money during the eight-week lockout. He said all the money CBC saved on staff salaries and production costs was spent on extra security, replacement programming, bringing managers to Toronto and, finally, on an expensive ad campaign to bring audiences back after the lockout.

The CMG is asking to appear before the committee to assist members and clear up any inaccuracies before they deliberate on any motions.

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