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Modest progress in CBC talks, but job security still in jeopardy

Bargaining has continued between the Guild and CBC with modest progress to report. We reached agreement on Leave for Union Activities and Reduced Work Week. Members of the Guild bargaining committee are at the table this week before setting out for a series of “strike vote” information meetings across the country beginning July 4th.

We note with interest the Corporation’s concern about losing two weeks while the Guild conducts its strike vote. We feel that employees are entitled to a full explanation of the issues prior to the strike vote (July 13 and 14) and covering the entire country takes time. Federal law provides for the extension of the conciliator’s 60-day mandate, if both sides agree. We proposed such an extension but the CBC immediately refused, which makes us believe the Corporation is more concerned about the vote than about lost bargaining time. We will return to the table on July 18th and will work day and night, and through weekends if necessary, to get a fair deal.

In order to get that fair deal, the Corporation will have to withdraw its proposal to hire virtually all future employees on contracts. We are somewhat perplexed by the rationalizations given by the Corporation to justify such a regressive position. Here are the arguments it has offered:

1) CBC’s budgets continue to decrease in “real” terms.

The CBC’s budget is more than $1.6 billion dollars this year?the highest it’s ever been. For years now staff has been told that if we sacrifice and show the government CBC is a well-run corporation, stable funding will follow. The fact that management has not succeeded is hardly a justification for hiring a disposable workforce. Whether CBC gets adequate inflationary increases in government funding doesn’t mean the job of the public broadcaster has fundamentally changed in any way.

2) Program cycles in television and radio are getting shorter. CBC has to renew its programming more frequently, with less notice and with less assurance that a new program will last more than a year or two.

The length of a program cycle has no bearing on whether you have a permanent workforce. Unless the plan is to get rid of all existing employees when programs are cancelled or changed, the cycle means nothing in terms of employee status. Remember, the CBC has assured us all that no permanent staff will be affected… which must mean it is anticipated that existing permanent staff will work within the so-called new program cycle.

3) CBC has to be able to change formats, change structure, put the right people in the right places and move resources more quickly than ever before.

This just in: CBC has been changing formats, structures and moving people and resources for decades. Given that permanent staff will continue to be involved in new formats and structures, how is this a justification for the Corporation’s proposals?

The Guild has offered to address specific non-permanent staffing needs if and when the Corporation decides to share them with us. We will NOT, under any circumstances, sign a blank cheque that threatens the future careers of CBC employees and the Corporation itself.

Your bargaining committee:
Arnold Amber, Toronto
Pierre Claveau, Vancouver
Brendan Elliott, Charlottetown
Percy Hatfield, Windsor
Joe Hill, Toronto
Wendy Hunt, Toronto
Gerry Jones, Regina
Barbara Saxberg, Toronto
Lee Siemon, Toronto
Chris Turner, Fredericton
Rick Warren, Vancouver
Dan Oldfield, Senior CMG staff representative

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