Ask Jean…

My boss wants to give me a cell phone to carry after work and on weekends. Can I be on call?
For most CMG members, the answer is a straightforward no. If you work at APTN, TVO, TFO, Alliance France-Presse, or The Canadian Press, the collective agreement rules out being on call.

Any employee at S-VOX can be asked to be on call, but you need to be given plenty of advance notice. You should submit your timecard showing all the hours you were on call, even if you didn’t answer a single call. You are paid 1/10 of your hourly rate for on-call hours. If the phone rings, all time spent responding to workplace inquiries should be paid at time and a half. If you have to go into work, your commute doesn’t count.

If you’re at Reuters in the IT department and you’re scheduled to be on call, you’ll get paid one hour’s salary for every eight hours you’re tied to the pager. If you have to do anything after you leave work that takes more than 15 minutes, you get paid time-and-a-half for at least three hours. If you’re called on a day off, the minimum is four hours at time-and-a-half on the first day off, then double-time if you have to work on your second day off. You should include travel time when you submit your timecard.

Reuters journalists are required to carry cell phones, but if it doesn’t say “on call” on your schedule, there’s no requirement for you to answer the phone. You’ll get two hours of normal pay for every eight hours of on-call duty. If the job you’re called to do takes more than 15 minutes, you’ll be paid at time-and-a-half for at least three hours. If it’s your day off, the minimum credit is four hours at time-and-a-half, and double time if you work again on your second day off. Start the clock from the time of the call and include commute time, if needed.

Virtually no CBC positions require being on-call. There are a few positions in IT that can be on call, but no other positions, including maintenance technicians, can be asked to be on call. For members in IT, being on call is based on an individual agreement with the employer and attracts a premium.

If you are being asked to be on call and you are unclear about your rights, contact your union.

Now don’t confuse “on call” with callback. Some Collective Agreements, even ones where you can’t be on call, have provisions for Callback. This is when you finish work, go home, and are halfway through dinner when the phone rings, and there’s some sort of breaking story, equipment problem, or other work emergency that can’t wait until your next shift. Remember that you can’t be disciplined or penalized for not picking up the phone, though, so you can still turn it off in the theatre… Calls about scheduling and general matters aren’t considered part of callback.

If you’re called back and you work at the CBC, you start accruing time-and-a-half from the beginning of the call, for a minimum credit of three hours if you have to go in to work. If you can deal with the matter from home, the minimum credit is one hour. If it takes longer than an hour, the minimum is three hours. At APTN, TVO, and TFO, you are paid for a minimum of four hours at base pay. Members of TVO, TFO, and the APTN Editorial Unit can credit these hours toward the Overtime Averaging Formula. If you’re at S-VOX, you get time and a half for a minimum of one hour, and you can turn it down. Members at TVO and TFO can also turn down a call. The Canadian Press does not have provisions for Callback.

I know I need to get in touch with my union, but who should I call?
Well, you can always call the National office at 1-800-465-4149 or 416-591-5333. If you live in the Atlantic region, you might call Gerry Whelan at 902-471-6070, and there’s also Gabi Durocher in Ottawa at 1-877-947-9477 (1-877-947-4949 pour les francophones), Dan Zeidler in the Prairies (204-253-7306) and Rick Warren for members the West and the North (778-772-3363). But there are many other people you can call who represent you as volunteers, and they may even sit next to you. Members on the local executive and local stewards are great resources. They can be called on to help out in a sticky meeting, help you to understand your rights, and they’re often great resources for venting. These volunteers are too numerous to list here, but you can find a good list at our website,, if you hover over Who’s Who, then select Branches.

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