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Strike vote to be held at APTN: it’s all about respect

After more than six months of often frustrating negotiations, your bargaining committee has determined it has no choice but to ask members for their support. In the coming days we will be holding a vote in order to give the committee a strike mandate in the event it cannot achieve a fair collective agreement. Details of the voting process will be announced in the coming days.

Some background:

The bargaining committee entered this round of talks with hopes the employer would be open to including some progressive language around training, performance management and work-life balance. As well, we are seeking a fair pay increase that covers annual inflation and provides a modest increase in real wages.

We were hopeful that at least some of our goals would be met. What we got instead throughout the process was a battery of insults and rejection. From the beginning, the employer accused the employees of being slackers, of being unprofessional and of dishonesty.

The employer’s low opinion of its workforce was evident in its opening proposal that tied any annual pay increases directly to management’s assessment of an employee’s productivity. This would not be an objective test but one unilaterally applied by management. We resisted this idea and instead offered a comprehensive plan for performance management. This plan would have created a two-way dialogue and would place obligations on both the employer and the employee. Ultimately it was rejected by management because, we believe, it would have been more accountable.

Throughout the process, management has continued to resist any progressive language offered by the Union. Nevertheless we continued to work towards a negotiated agreement.


The employer’s low regard for employees was again demonstrated when it came to a discussion around the across-the-board wage increase. The employer is seeking a five year deal to take us to 2010. While we have some concerns about the length of the term, we agreed to try to meet the employer’s goal. With annual inflation running somewhere around the 2% to 2.5% range, we proposed an agreement that called for a 3% increase in each of the five years. We believe this proposal is reasonable given that APTN’s own consultants reported average increases in the industry of around 2.5% and other wage increases in Manitoba in the 3% range. Additionally the cost of our proposal to the employer for this bargaining unit amounts to about $40,000 a year, a very small sum considering the employer is now getting $11-million more per year in increased cable fees.

Management’s proposals called for no wage increase in the first year, 3.5% in the second, nothing in the third year, 3.5% in the fourth and nothing in the fifth year. That amounts to 7% over five years. We rejected the proposal. Management later revised its proposal by offering 1.75% in each year for a total of about 9% over the five year term. In as much as management had made a move in the right direction, we also made a move that reduced our proposal from 15% over five years to 13%. We did this as a show of good faith following discussions with the CEO. We were hopeful.

But management’s response was shocking. Again it offered nothing on the scales for the first year and 2% in each of the following, 8% over five years. It did offer a cash payment which, after taxes, would have given employees about six or seven hundred dollars.

We are at a loss to explain management’s hostility. The Canadian Media Guild has been an active supporter of APTN, almost from the beginning. We were part of the group to make representations to the CRTC to help it achieve its increased cable fee.

What it will take

We have not made contract demands that cannot be met or that exceed the employers ability to pay. We have attempted to be progressive and forward thinking.

It has become obvious to us that the company is prepared to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees to have legal counsel conduct a fruitless round of talks rather than make a fair wage offer. It has become obvious to us the employer would rather fight than agree.

We have spent six days meeting with the help of two federally appointed conciliation officers and have literally nothing to show for it. The bargaining committee is now coming to you. We are asking for your support to help us gain a fair collective agreement.

We will be asking you to give us a strike mandate. When you are asked to vote in the coming days, please say yes.

Your bargaining committee:

Greg Taylor
Bruce Spence
Cheryl McKenzie
Dan Oldfield
Dan Zeidler

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