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President’s Address to the 2021 CMG Virtual Convention

I would like to welcome each and everyone of you to this first – and hopefully last – CMG virtual convention. 

When we decided on this virtual event, we were concerned many of you would rather wait for a real convention.

But it’s been three years, and we believed it was really important to gather as delegates and go about the business of our union, as well as we can. So here we are.

Despite the obvious limitations, I truly hope these virtual sessions will be productive and meaningful – and why not – even enjoyable! We’ve worked hard to make this happen, and we’ve hired one of the best companies doing this, so we take some comfort in that.

Hopefully you will, too.

I’d like to humbly acknowledge that here in Toronto, we are on the beautiful traditional territories of the Credit River Mississauga, the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnawbe and the Haudenosaunee.

This acknowledgement is more important than ever, in light of the recent discovery at the Kamloops Residential School. We share the anguish of our colleagues and friends, as all Canadians do. Please try to make a concrete gesture to show our solidarity, support an Indigenous effort in some way, call for justice for the families.

I’d also like to take a moment to recognize our colleagues who’ve been hurt by Covid-19, whether it is health challenges, including mental health, or loss of work, loss opportunities, or negative impact on family life.

I’d like to acknowledge the added burden and offer our gratitude for those who have had to continue to come go into workplaces, allowing others to safely work from home.

And I want to acknowledge that for many of our fellow union members, in addition to the hard times we are all going through, they carry the additional weight of dealing with racism and its impacts, in their everyday life, including at work.

There is also the very real financial challenges our industry faces which have taken a toll, amplifying the problems we are all facing for our colleagues who are Freelance and temporary workers.

I don’t need to tell you how challenging all our lives have become because of these crises. Media workers have worked even harder and creatively to keep on delivering much-needed services to the public under these unbelievable circumstances. The public has noticed, and we must take a moment to recognize what we were able to contribute as media workers over the past unpredictable months.  

Similarly, CMG staff and the NEC have had an exceptionally busy 18 months.

*Together, we have made, health and safety, and protecting your jobs a priority.  

*We also brought back union education, ensured CMG staff is diverse and bilingual, imposed tougher anti-bullying and anti-racism policies, and committed 60 thousand dollars just this year for anti-racism training.

In a first for the union, all staff and the NEC have taken an unconscious bias, anti- racism seminar.

More importantly, the NEC has voted to make anti-racism training mandatory for all elected volunteers in the future.

*To support our union’s efforts for temporary media workers, we have also met with federal ministers and other policy leaders, as well broadcast regulators, urging funding to resolve precarious work in media, as well as targeted money to convert temps into permanent jobs at CBC.

This is a group of media workers who are largely young and diverse, and whose contributions are much needed by our industry – something employers are now agreeing with.  At several CMG branches, we have joint committees now working on this issue. At CBC, it is the biggest step forward I have seen in ten years of working with temps at the national public broadcaster.

I think it is fair to say that some of the important changes that we are starting to see in media would not have happened without the work, commitment and clarity of our brave colleagues, who have spoken up publicly about the real impacts of precarious work, and of systemic racism.

They have shown incredible leadership in these transformational times! And CMG staff and NEC were honoured to be by their side every step of the way.

*Bargaining is one of the core union function we pushed hard to maintain despite the challenges and in some cases managers who did not seem eager to return to the Zoom bargaining table after the initial pause in negotiations at the start of the pandemic.  This has been our most challenging year ever for bargaining. We’ve settled collective agreements at eight different branches. Every one more complicated in great part because of Covid and the financial times we are in.

 *And now, as the pandemic winds down, there are questions about the future of work. Who goes back? Who works from home? Who decides? The union must be there with information, strategies and membership to make sure this process is first and foremost fair and safe for all members. We are on it!

There is good news as we look forward.

CMG will be welcoming 100 new members in the fall from two new branches.

These difficult times have created renewed interest in unions. Recent headlines in the US trumpet record number of journalists unionize during COVID pandemic.

 Others call it a “wave of union organizing”, as workers line up to join unions like our parent union, the Communication Workers of America.

The issues are the same: job security, pay equity and what many are calling, “glaring diversity issues“. A reminder there remains so much to do.

We have heard you; you want CMG to fight for job security, and against precarious work. For fairness at safety at work, and against anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and against racism to all BIPOC workers; against homophobia and islamophobia. For a fair back to work processes, and against arbitrary and punitive decisions.

On behalf of  CMG members, I’d like to thank all of you for the hard work and support that pushes us all forward.  

Carmel Smyth
Canadian Media Guild
CWA Canada, Local 30213 (Communications Workers of America)

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