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Guild finds holes in contracting-out plan

The CBC’s plan to contract out the work of publicity for English TV, radio and internet services is seriously flawed and would end up costing more for fewer results. This is the message the Guild has sent to the CBC board of directors, senior managers, politicians and journalists in a bid to force a sober second look at the proposal.

The CBC’s plan means cutting 34 Guild jobs nation-wide in the Communications department, hiring at least five extra managers and paying $1 million to an outside agency for pared-down publicity work. All of this is supposed to take place by the end of June. The communications department believes it will save $864,000 per year with the move. The Guild estimates that the person-hours available to do the work would be reduced by 90 per cent.

That means:

? Only a selected few shows would get publicity support. It would put an end to the help other shows now get from CBC publicity staff working on their own initiative. The programmingnot targeted by management for publicity and promotion, including most of radio, would either do without or spend more of their own program budgets to get the word out. Obviously, this would squeeze programming.
? The job cuts would devastate regional outreach and publicity in places like Ottawa, Calgary and Winnipeg, where only one person would be left to organize outreach events and support regional shows in both TV and radio. Producers are nervous that their own workload would skyrocket or the profile of their programs would suffer.
? Journalists would cover the CBC less. This is not only because there would be less media relations work, but also because many journalists have made it clear that they prefer to deal with CBC publicists, who know the history and have excellent inside contacts, than external publicists.
? Public awareness of CBC programs would decrease. Public broadcasting would have even more difficulty competing with the privates and their US programming and that will make the CBC, reliant on public support and government funds, even more vulnerable than it already is.

The CBC did not alert the Guild to its plan until two weeks ago, long after managers had begun hatching the dubious plan to try to save money by hiring a national PR firm to promote CBC shows. Managers could not provide any detailed written analysis comparing the cost of doing the work in-house versus contracting it out. The union asked the CBC to delay signing a deal with an outside company until the end of May, so that we could work with existing employees to come up with an alternative and truly cost-saving plan. Managers refused our request, insisting a company must be selected by the first week of May.

The Guild is urging the CBC to stop its process to contract out the publicity work and treat its employees with respect. There are better ways to save money and refocus publicity work and “attract wider audiences.” One place to start is to examine the increasingly management-heavy structure of the Communications department itself. Under the proposed model, there would be one manager for every two employees!

The Guild introduced language at the bargaining table months ago proposing a ban on contracting our work to outside firms. Clearly, there is no agreement on this issue.

There are signs that CBC managers are on the defensive about their current plan. A number of Guild members facing job cuts have been threatened with discipline for even communicating with their colleagues about the issue. There is no justification for this kind of action on the part of managers, and it is wrong to add to the stress of a group of people whose careers the Corporation is putting on the line.

If you have concerns about how the proposal will affect your work, we urge you to share them with us and tell us whether we can use your comments, with or without your name attached, in our ongoing campaign to put a stop to this contracting out. You can send them to guild@interlog.com or fax them to 416-591-7278.

For more information, please contact us (guild@interlog.com) at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.

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