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And so it begins: bargaining with The Canadian Press

The Canadian Media Guild has begun negotiations toward a new collective agreement with The Canadian Press. As you know, our current contract with CP expires at the end of December.

First, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to offer advice, suggestions and support in meetings that Keith Maskell and I held in bureaus across the country over the past two weeks. It’s your collective agreement, and your input on what you’d like to see in a new deal is invaluable.

We met with representatives of the company for two days this week, and suffice it to say that much of what they told us wasn’t new. The company’s financial situation was described by management as “dire.” We are being told that current revenues fall well short of what CP is spending to maintain operations.

What we have seen of the company’s numbers so far is daunting. However, we have yet to see a detailed breakdown of the books. That will likely come in meetings already scheduled over the next two weeks.

As Keith and I mentioned in our bureau meetings, the company is telling us that it will need to do some additional – and significant – cost-cutting in the coming year, even with the departure of 10 Guild members through the Voluntary Departure Program and the elimination of several management positions.

A key area of concern for us is that the company wants to review all elements of compensation – wages, benefits, pension and premiums – to find possible savings. We’ll be working hard to remind the company that successful businesses don’t cut their way to greatness. Building existing sources of revenue, and creating new revenue streams will be essential to ensuring the survival and growth of The Canadian Press.

One issue that the Guild and the company looked at this week is a change to the way vacation time is accumulated and to the vacation year itself. We’re not opposed to such a move, on the condition that no one loses vacation entitlement as a result. We will continue discussions with the company to work out the details.

As we did in the last round of bargaining, we are planning to deal with the issue of pension in a parallel process. The company has yet to indicate what sorts of changes, if any, it is contemplating.

Our next days are scheduled for December 5 and 6 as well as December 12-14. We’ll continue to keep you posted on developments.

Terry Pedwell, CP Branch President
on behalf of your bargaining team:
John Cotter
Ross Marowits
Craig Wong
Keith Maskell, CMG Staff Representative

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