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Letter from branch president Colin Perkel

Dear Colleagues and fellow CMGers.

Having just wrapped up my final National Executive Committee meeting, it seems appropriate both to bring you up to speed on some of the latest developments as well as to offer some thoughts as I prepare to step down as your national branch president.

The past term of office has seen numerous changes at the national union level. We weathered a vicious assault on our members during the CBC lockout of 2005. That attack – the rationale for which has never been properly explained – still reverberates, particularly at our CBC branch but also nationally as we continue to rebuild our defense fund and grapple with tight budgets, although we are in substantially sound shape.

In recent years, our national office staff has grown in size and professionalism; we have added new branches; and we have become a respected voice for media workers as we continually advance the interests of our members in various forums such as on Parliament Hill or at the CRTC.

We are set to move our head office to a fully accessible building – a directive that came from the Calgary convention in 2006 and demonstrates how you, the members, can and do affect how your union operates. (Watch for information on an open house in January). We have introduced a new members’ booklet for The Canadian Press branch – an attractive, easy-to-read guide to your union and your collective agreement.

At the branch level, we have seen several landmark events – the wage rollback in 2005 that helped the company weather the nasty pension storm, as well the recently finalized pension restructuring, the end point of several years of hard work by both your trustees and management representatives.

We are a more cohesive branch, with members across the country active in big and small ways, including sitting on numerous committees (eg. training, health and safety) that do important work and get results. We are more inclusive. Our francophone members play a more active role than ever before. We have concluded two successful rounds of bargaining that saw significant wage and other improvements.

We have also seen challenging changes in the workplace, from convergence and the introduction of video to the new computer systems we now work with. We work in an intense, constantly shifting environment, and that is unlikely to change.

Through it all, I have done my best to represent your interests effectively, to give clear voice to your needs and concerns no matter which department or bureau you work in. My approach has been guided by the simple premise that our common concerns are paramount – by common I mean those of Guild members and management. While our interests may genuinely diverge on occasion and we may disagree vigorously about individual issues, the bottom line is that we are in a symbiotic relationship which only begins with respect for our collective bargaining agreement.

The downside to lowering the labour climate temperature and dispensing with old-style rhetoric and table pounding is that we might appear to be co-opted. The further risk is that you as members assume all is always well and that there is no longer a need for an effective union. Both notions, of course, are false. Constructive dialogue is always preferable to ideologically driven posturing, but it should never be confused with a failure to represent your interests or the lack of a need for effective representation.

I want to thank Canadian Press president Eric Morrison, human resources manager Paul Woods and company lawyer Harvey Beresford for helping facilitate a more constructive and progressive labour climate.

Congrats to Terry Pedwell, who takes over as branch president, as well as to Roger Ward and Steve Mertl who, with Terry, will form your new national executive. I know we will be in good hands. Congratulations also to our tireless Scott Edmonds on his re-election as CMG national vice-president at large, and finally, special thanks to staff representative Kathy Viner, whose efforts on our branch’s behalf are beyond anything I could encapsulate here.

Location executive elections are coming up in February. I urge you to consider running for office. You can make a positive difference. If we are to remain effective and relevant, we must constantly seek the fresh energy and fresh ideas that only you as members, both new and experienced, can provide. Without that, we simply cannot function.

Being active in your union is a dual role: on one hand, it affords an opportunity to shape how the Guild itself (with its close to $6-million budget of your money) operates. On the other hand, it allows input into the kind of workplace we want and thereby helps create the kind of dynamic and responsive organization we can be proud to work for. Both are a continual work in progress but both are eminently worthwhile goals.

Finally, I want to thank you, the members, for all your support, criticism and help over the years. It’s been much appreciated.

Have a fine, safe festive season, and if I don’t talk to you before then, happy New Year and a prosperous 2008.

Colin Perkel
(Almost Past) President, The Canadian Press Branch

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