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The Union corrects the facts about Meta Fellowships at The Canadian Press

As you may all have heard, false information has been circulating about the Guild’s position in regard to the Meta assignment. We would like to rectify and clarify the situation:

1- The Guild has never asked for any form of termination of employment regarding the contract or the temporary members. The opposite is true:  after holding an extraordinary general membership meeting to deal with this issue, the Guild met the Employer and proposed to keep the cohort until a remedy is issued through the arbitration process.

2- The Guild never provided the waiver to Article 32 as we are affirming these jobs are not temporary in nature but rather permanent. The Meta work is ongoing and is no different than the work performed by the Group 3 reporter-editor members.

3- The Union was told only inexperienced reporters or “junior reporters” could qualify for the assignment as it was apparently stipulated in the Meta contract. We have requested, both in bargaining and in grievance meetings, to see the Meta contract, to no avail. It was later confirmed that no stipulation restricts any current member from holding these positions. The Meta project provided funding to encourage emerging reporters. This can have many meanings and the positions are not restricted to fresh-out-of-school journalists or inexperienced journalists as originally portrayed. This also means part-timers could have held the positions if they had been posted, as per the collective agreement, as permanent jobs.

The Guild Proposal

The Union made the following proposal to CP: to extend the employment of the current “Meta employees.” This means that, without prejudice and without precedent to either party’s positions, the temporary employees would have remained at work while we resolved our differences of interpretation through the arbitration process. We believed it to be a good solution that would have allowed members to keep working and CP to keep the trained and experienced Meta cohort for the time being as the arbitration can often take a year or more to conclude. The employer refused this solution.

We also made the arguments that were raised by the membership. From a human standpoint, it is the view of the membership that firing these workers is indecent and immoral given our economic times. These employees were hired with the belief their jobs would be extended past the six-month mark without much complication.

In fact, the employer has known for more than a year that we were not agreeing to provide another waiver to Article 32 as it was circumventing members’ permanent status. The initial waivers were granted in good faith as we believed the employer when they stated the work was only temporary in nature and that none of our current members could occupy the jobs as per the legal requirements of the Meta contract.

Falling on deaf ears

On a practical level, our current colleagues in the Meta cohort have been trained in the CP environment. They work hard and they care about what they do. The decision CP took to terminate their employment has multiple negative effects for all members. First, it has real human impact for those losing their livelihoods in a difficult economic time; it will disrupt the organization, causing undue stress and increased workload; and it changes members’ perception of their employer and workplace.

We have shared all these concerns with the employer but it has fallen on deaf ears.

The employer’s refusal to keep these members employed is astounding, given the fact the Guild would have granted them the possibility to argue their legal position without prejudice. Instead, they are opting to disregard this offer while terminating and re-hiring new temporary employees every six months. Our legal position is clear: this practice is also in violation of the collective agreement.

At the request of the membership, we also attempted to find solutions to this situation. We agreed to meet the employer with all key stakeholders present. We have followed up on this offer to meet every day since it was made last week but have not received any confirmation our proposal to meet was accepted.

We will therefore be proceeding to arbitrate the matter.

In the meantime, we ask for your solidarity. We will be preparing for bargaining in the coming months. If you have doubts about a situation that affects your work or want to fact-check, please contact your union representatives.

Look for further communication on this in the coming days.

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