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Temporary work and systemic racism

In recent weeks, CBC’s senior management team has made a number of promises to address systemic racism within the corporation.  We appreciate management’s acknowledgement of this serious problem and we are glad to see them begin to take steps towards correcting it.

However, any attempts to eliminate systemic racism within CBC will ultimately be meaningless without fundamentally changing the way temporary workers are engaged.

Temps are younger and more diverse than their colleagues. They are the very people the corporation needs to retain and promote. But far too often, smart, diverse and talented journalists leave CBC in disgust and frustration after years spent spinning their wheels, waiting for job security that never materializes.

When asked about how temporary workers are affected by structural racism at the townhall on June 11, the answer from management displayed a complete failure to understand what the experience of being a temp is like. It was suggested that if temps have concerns about racism they should simply speak up, without fear of reprisal; any temp who heard this would tell you this is an insulting and ridiculous suggestion. Temps who speak out against decisions made by their superiors are often punished for doing so.

Temps live in a culture of fear. They are always looking for their next gig, which means they always have to be thinking about pleasing their bosses. This is especially trying for those temps who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour, and whose white superiors refuse to acknowledge their own blind spots.

It means not speaking up when a story about their community is framed in a racist way. It means silently enduring racist comments from their colleagues. It means having their pitches dismissed as “biased” or being called “activists” for wanting to report on real issues in their lives. For many, it means that in order to succeed within CBC, they have to leave their identities and lived experiences at the door.

Over time this culture breeds resentment, and fosters a belief that the CBC does not value them or their work.

Furthermore, there is no system in place to equitably distribute shifts among per-occasion temps, who do the vast majority of precarious work at CBC. In the absence of such a system, temps are hired based on who their managers like. In other words, it’s all based on favouritism. And in a fundamentally racist society such as ours, a system based on favouritism is, therefore, inherently racist.

These are not our opinions. These are complaints we have heard directly from temps. We have heard them over and over again, and they started long before the death of George Floyd.

If CBC is serious about addressing the concerns of its employees, it must make significant changes to the system of temporary work. These changes must include, but are not limited to the following measures:

1-Significantly reduce the proportion of work done by precarious labour. This can be done by allocating enough resources for shows to be properly staffed, and creating more permanent “floater” positions dedicated to short-term backfill, while longer-term vacancies can be filled by +13 temps.

2-Every department must have a manager who is solely dedicated to the professional development and support of temporary employees.

3-All temps must have access to full medical benefits and sick leave from their first day on the job, not just during the pandemic.

4-Allow for temps to convert to permanent status after 18 months in the same classification as opposed to position.

5-CBC must collect demographic data on temporary employees and share that data with CMG and other CBC unions.

6-Create an anonymous, independent way of reporting racism within CBC, including racist editorial decisions, that includes all CBC Unions, and that the results of racism investigations are released to employees.


CMG Toronto Temp Committee

Nairi Apkarian (co-chair)

Julian Uzielli

Matt Guerin

Brent Cousland

Lauren Baert (Staff Rep)

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