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Joining the Guild for respect and hope for the future

Until December 2005, Alliance Atlantis Communications was one of Canada’s largest broadcasters without a union. What happened to change that?

The answer isn’t that complicated. Years of frustration over a variety of issues finally convinced employees in the Operations department that it was time to join the Canadian Media Guild.

The problems faced by the people in Operations have been brewing since the merger of Alliance Communications and Atlantis Communications. There was an obvious difference in the treatment of Alliance versus Atlantis employees, and the split was not properly mended by management.

These problems were altered but not alleviated in 2001 when the merged company added seven digital specialty channels. A large group of new employees were hired, and quite a few Operations employees were promoted and moved around the department. However, instead of working to create a single, and fair, approach to employees, the differences were disguised by the creation of some new job titles.

Employees were now spread over three floors and there was little, if any, communication between floors. The opportunity for cross training and employee camaraderie ceased to a large extent and favouritism and unfair treatment by management flourished. Divisions within the department replaced the former company-based divisions.

In the next few years there was very little movement by employees within any of the Operations departments, mainly due to the problematic structure. People who were doing the exact same job on separate floors were being treated and compensated much differently. And with very little promotion and turnover within the department, people began wondering about their futures.

AAC has a stable, maturing group of employees who are now asking many of the questions and concerns that people nearing the five-year milestone at any company have. Why is our pay so much lower than elsewhere in the industry? Why does a company so large and successful refuse to contribute to our retirement? Why have most people been doing the same job for more than four years with little prospect for promotion or even change?

We chose to join a union because we think it’s the best way to fix the problems in our workplace. The organizing campaign at Alliance Atlantis was based on equity, future, respect, and education. And these will be the cornerstones of a new, successful branch of the CMG.

Rob Van Sickle is a master control operator and was a member of the organizing committee at Alliance Atlantis Communications in Toronto.

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