Ask Jean …

What’s with temporary jobs in the media?
Most media empoyers rely to some extent on temporary employees, and that goes for virtually all of the branches of the CMG. Whether they’re contract, temporary, freelance, or on an internship, these members don’t enjoy the same rights as permanent, full-time staff. They may not have access to benefits, pension plans, vacation time, or sick leave. And they certainly don’t have the same kind of job security provisions as permanent employees.

In general, employers should only hire people on a temporary basis to do work that is temporary. It may mean filling in for a permanent employee who is on leave, or working on a short-term project, or pitching in when there’s a sudden– and temporary– surge in workload. The CMG’s view is that ongoing work should be performed by permanent employees.

This month, I am going to answer questions from our most “flexible” (meaning vulnerable) members: those without a permanent job.

If I’m on contract where I work, am I a Guild member?
Yes. Contract, “casual,” and temporary employees can be Guild members with voting rights, the ability to serve on committees, and run for election. Even if the employer doesn’t treat you the same as a permanent employee, you are a full member of the CMG like everyone else once you sign a union membership card!

And watch out if your employer calls you a freelancer. If you appear regularly on a schedule, work in your employer’s building, have a company email address, use your employer’s equipment, etc., you aren’t really a freelancer. Call or write to me to find out more.

I’m a temp, and I’m sick. Can I call off work and still get paid?
That depends on where you are, and for how long. At Agence-France Presse, a long-term temporary employee has sick leave, but a casual does not. At CP/BN, temporary employees can call in sick and expect to be paid. If the illness is longer, they are eligible to receive one week of sick leave for every week of continuous service, up to fifteen weeks. At TVO and TFO, if you’re a full-time temporary employee, you can expect reasonable sick leave after three months. After six months, you have the same rights to benefits as a permanent employee. If you are a part-time temp, you should still be granted reasonable sick leave. If you’re at the CBC and a long-term temp (hired for more than 13 weeks), your sick days should be paid. If you’re getting called in from time to time and have no fixed schedule, you are not paid for sick days. If you’re a temporary employee at Reuters and have run into problems in this area, please call or write to me. At Alliance Atlantis, SUN TV and S-VOX, this issue is still being worked out in bargaining.

I’m a temp at CBC. My boss just offered me a contract job, and said it was “as good as permanent.” Is that really true?
Not exactly. Contract positions do have more rights associated with them than temporary jobs. You get the same annual leave as you would if you were permanent. You have benefits from day one. After two years you can buy into the pension plan. And after four years on contract, you have a window of opportunity to convert to permanent status. If you’re getting close to the four-year mark, please call or write to me.

When you’re on contract, you have no guarantee that your contract will be renewed. In many cases, you could even have your contract terminated without just cause. You can work at the CBC for 20 years on contract, and then be let go for no reason!

As a temporary employee, you may know that if you’ve been at the CBC for 18 months in the same position, location, and component, you should automatically be converted to permanent status. If you’re about to hit your 18 months and your boss offers you a contract job, call the union. Something smells funny.

If you have questions about your rights, or your rights are being violated, get in touch or check out your collective agreement on our website, You can reach me at or call me at 416-591-5333 or toll-free, 1-800- 465-4149.

Jean Broughton is the CMG’s Union Services Co-ordinator. Her column appears regularly in G-Force to give answers to commonly asked questions from CMG members.

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