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Letter from CP/BN Branch President

Dear fellow Guild members:

Over the past year or two, many of you have expressed deep concern over the direction and future of The Canadian Press/Broadcast News amid shifting expectations and increasing demands in your daily working lives. We have attempted in a variety of forums to convey those concerns to senior management. Despite our best efforts, the complaints ? about issues such as convergence, workload, quality of product, and salary and benefit levels ? kept coming. Indeed, many have only grown louder, something made clear once again in the recent pre-bargaining survey. It became increasingly obvious that a major part of the problem was the growing stress on our already stressed resources. It also became obvious that we needed to be proactive in advocating more vigorously on behalf of CP/BN, something several managers confidentially told me they supported.

As a result, and after discussions with Guild activists, individual members and staff at the national union office, your executive decided we needed to reach out beyond CP/BN management. The sole intention was to broaden support for, and awareness of, the importance of the organization to both Canadian media and the wider fabric of the country in an effort to find ways to strengthen it financially and hence journalistically. We are determined to never again find ourselves in the position we were in 1996, when in what seemed like the blink of an eye, CP/BN almost folded. The issue took on new urgency last fall, when each and every one of us had to dig deep into our pockets to help rescue the company from what was largely a deficit in the management pension plan.

The strategy we developed over many months has been two-fold. On one hand, we felt it necessary to raise awareness at the country’s highest political levels of the threat newspaper and broadcaster concentration poses to the Canadian media in general, and more specifically to CP/BN. For example, we have made and supported well- received briefs to the Senate committee looking into the issue of media concentration.

The second prong involves reaching out to the people who own us and pay our freight, ie: our newspaper members and broadcast clients. While ownership obviously has its prerogatives, it also has its responsibilities, including the adequate care and feeding of CP/BN. As part of this initiative, we engaged a professional, independent polling company (Viewpoints, based in Winnipeg) to survey our owners and our broadcast clients in an effort to gauge how they view the company. The questions, which were designed to be as neutral as possible, focused on areas such as how valuable they deemed various parts of our output to be to their news organizations, their thoughts on the quality of the product, and whether they had any concerns about our future. We approached the exercise with an open mind as to what the results might yield. The survey, which took about 10 days, began two weeks ago.

Some questions have arisen about whether we consulted with management beforehand. As we have explained in two meetings with management, we did not discuss our plans with the company for several reasons. Among them: we did not want to put senior management in any conflict of interest with board members, and we did not want to risk any interference that would undermine the validity of the results.

Some have worried that the survey could somehow damage the company. This completely ignores the extraordinary lengths Guild leaders and ultimately you the members have gone to, and go to every workday, to ensure the health and success of CP/BN. If simply asking questions about the value of CP/BN is enough to cause it damage, we have to wonder just how fragile the organization really is. Ultimately, the Guild carries out its mandate to defend the interests of its members in the manner it deems most effective. While we have taken great pains in the past to accommodate management requests with a view to building a constructive relationship, your Guild executive takes direction from only one source: you the membership.

Once we have collected the survey data and analysed the results, we will make decisions on if, how and in what form to release the information. You can rest assured our only aim is to help strengthen a company we are fiercely committed to serving, thereby helping ensure your interests are properly served.

As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your local president, myself, or Kathy Viner (kathy@cmg.ca) at the Guild office.

Best wishes,

Colin Perkel
CP/BN national branch president
Canadian Media Guild

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