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Letter from Terry Pedwell, Canadian Press Branch President

As many of us head off to summer vacation land, I wanted to update you on what has been going on at the Canadian Media Guild, both at the national level and within our branch.

My apologies for not bringing this to you sooner, but events on the Hill in Ottawa made it difficult to focus on much more than work.

First, I wanted to give you an idea of the kind of representation the CP branch had at the recent national biennial convention in Toronto.

Convention delegates made a lot of decisions that will affect you, the most noticeable being the application of a $5 monthly levy to rebuild the Guild’s Defence Fund. It was a difficult decision, but delegates agreed to apply the temporary increase in dues for a 12 month period. While I have no real issues with rebuilding the Fund (after all, its purpose is to help defend all of us), your CP branch representatives at the convention attempted to ensure the Guild would put all of the extra money collected into the Fund. In the past, the Fund has been used occasionally to cover ongoing Guild expenses. Unfortunately, despite the introduction of several resolutions by your CP representatives, we were unsuccessful in convincing the majority of delegates to accept spending control measures.

In particular, I was pleased to see CP Ottawa’s Bruce Cheadle, and Steve Mertl of Vancouver, propose amendments that would have clarified use of the Defence Fund, and require more transparency. Again, unfortunately, their efforts were voted down.

I urge you to visit the Guild website (www.cmg.ca), and click on June 8 Defence Fund memo. There, you can view the video compiled at the convention where I laid out a couple of our concerns on your behalf.

So, what now? The expectation is that all CMG dues-payers who work full time will pay an extra $5 per month in dues for one year, likely beginning in September. Part-timers and short-term temporary employees will pay a reduced levy of $1 dollar for each month they pay dues over the 12-month period.

At the convention, the Guild also moved to eliminate the cap on dues paid by members. Currently, CMG members pay 1.55% of their earnings in dues, but those dues are capped at $1,500 annually. But that means members earning more than roughly $100,000 per year pay less than 1.55%. Under the proposal, which will go to a referendum for you to decide, the cap would rise by $100 per year for ten years and be eliminated altogether at the end of that period.

Branch council meeting
Before the convention, your CP Branch Council spent a full day discussing issues of concern. As you might expect, video was a predominant part of those discussions. Workload generally is a major issue across the company, and more training is needed for non-editorial staff as well, such as Technical. But video has been a flashpoint and has had the most impact on the Editorial workplace. There is increasing pressure to deliver content, and better quality at that, yet minimize overtime. Staff have expressed worries about making mistakes, and about a lack of editorial control over the video end product. That’s not to mention the feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed trying to supply all platforms.

Management at The Canadian Press appears to have realized that training, along with more manpower and better technical resources, are needed to produce the type of quality video product that the company says it is striving to achieve. Since we met, there has been a video training session attended by a number of reporters from across the country. As well, a new video desk was created in Montreal to handle French productions.

We will carefully assess what came of the training session, and what demands the company will bring forward in the months ahead. We know video is becoming a money maker for CP. But the potential for revenue growth, and just exactly what the company wants from its video camera-carrying news hounds, is still questionable. We will continue pressing management for better clarification of duties and responsibilities, and for equipment that can make the job easier to carry out.

In the meantime, the Branch Council agreed to establish a Guild working committee on video. Among other things, it was suggested this group could survey members, develop our own protocols and generally mobilize reporters around video.

Finally, we are tentatively planning a cross country visit this fall. It’s been awhile since the last Guild road trip to bureaus. I’d appreciate any thoughts you have as to when would be the best time.

Have a safe, healthy and happy summer.

Terry Pedwell, President
Canadian Press Branch

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