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Workers at Ontario public broadcaster TVO vote at 100% in favour of a strike mandate

.CMG workers at TVO have a strike mandate, with 100% of votes in support

.TVO/CMG members have received below-inflation wage increases for the past 10 years, and salaries are below industry standard

.Workers are disheartened with the company’s move from permanent employment to precarious contracts with no benefits

.TVO appears to be positioning to abandon journalism at a critical time for quality and trustworthy information

For the first time since 2015, the Canadian Media Guild/TVO employees have given a strike mandate to their bargaining committee, putting the union one step closer to a legal strike position. The turnout for the vote was 96% with 100% supporting a strike mandate.

The collective agreement that governs the relationship between the provincial broadcaster and its journalists, producers, and education workers expired in October 2022. TVO has received no inflationary increase in base funding from the provincial government for many years. In fact, TVO received a 5% decrease in base funding in 2019 and has been asked to produce more with less ever since.

The salaries of the members were subject to Bill 124, which was ruled unconstitutional in November and is now being appealed by the province. TVO/CMG members have received below-inflation wage increases for the past 10 years, including three years of complete wage freezes. These real, adjusted-for-inflation wage cuts come at a time when the cost of living has skyrocketed. As has been the case for many Ontarians, the rising cost of living pushed several TVO employees out of living in Toronto, where the broadcaster is based.

TVO/CMG workers helped keep the lights on while the province was shutting down during the early stages of the pandemic in March 2020, continuing to inform the public across Ontario through its journalism and online learning. TVO’s flagship show, The Agenda, didn’t miss a beat, with Steve Paikin and Nam Kiwanuka hosting from their respective homes.

The Agenda was a place Ontarians could turn to for calm, rational, and reliably truthful information during an unprecedented global crisis. TVO is a trusted source of information that is extremely valuable during a time of increased political polarization.

Staff at TVO are discouraged by what appears to be an effort by their employer to change its model to favour a precarious workforce. New employees are hired on contract and have been blocked from being converted to staff even after working at TVO for several years (with no shortage of work to do). For instance, TVO hired dozens of people during the pandemic to bring Ontario’s curriculum online. Most of those workers were unceremoniously let go after about a year. Some were then rehired after a break in employment and now TVO is asking the union to sign a waiver to let the employer keep these workers permanently on contract.

Not only does CMG not intend to sign such a waiver, but it also wonders how TVO plans to operate in a climate where it can’t keep staff given TVO wages are below industry standards and the number of vacant positions appears only to grow.

Another issue deeply concerning to CMG/TVO employees: the change in the Minister of Education’s letter of direction to TVO, which now contains zero references to journalism or current affairs. This change is reflected in TVO’s business plan, which also makes no mention of journalism and describes major changes coming to its current affairs content.

While we understand the provincial government might not always enjoy the political coverage it receives, we hope it understands the important role journalism has played at TVO, especially at a time of massive disruption to the private-sector ad-based model of journalism, which has been thoroughly undermined by large American social media companies.

As part of their negotiations, TVO/CMG workers are seeking the following improvements:

.Wages that take into account industry standards and inflation, especially for those in lower classifications

.Permanent jobs for permanent work, and a move away from reliance on precarious workers

.A commitment to quality journalism at TVO now and in the future

If you’re interested in knowing more about the situation of CMG employees at TVO, please reach out to CMG/TVO Branch President Meredith Martin (meredithmartinworks@gmail.com) and CMG/TVO Branch Vice-President Cara Stern (carastern@gmail.com)


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