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Meet your new national union representatives, Part 2

The recent national elections at the Guild returned some familiar faces while bringing in a brand new group of media employees eager to stand up for their colleagues and run their union. They began their three-year term on January 1. Below, find out more about eight new and returning members of the Guild’s national executive committee. Click here to read Part 1 of “Meet the NEC”

Lise Lareau, National President, CMG
Why and when did you get involved in the union? In the early-1980s, when we were undergoing another technological change, the one from film to electronic newsgathering (ENG). I was working at CBC’s Toronto station, CBLT, with a truly special team of reporters, shooters, producers and editors. For a whole list of reasons, the film cameramen were being prevented from getting any of the new ENG jobs and they were about to be cast aside. I was young and knew nothing about unions, but I knew what was happening was wrong. I became an unofficial spokesperson for them, because we weren’t even in the same union at the time. Long story short, they ended up getting permanent jobs. It was satisfying to see, because finally, it was recognition for years of being “daily hires” on the front lines of television news and they deserved a little security after decades of shooting plane crashes, wars, elections and disasters for the CBC.

What is your top goal for the next three years? For the CMG to be effective and intelligent in helping members cope with all the new pressures of digital technology, integration of media lines and all the workload issues these developments have created. No one has a magic answer to it yet. What I don’t want is for people to feel powerless and demoralized. We have to find a forum to discuss professional issues involving journalistic and programming quality. I also want to find an effective way to ensure members get the help and service they need when they need it and/or the necessary training to deal with it themselves. That’s part of making the union a bigger part of people’s lives, in between the crises. Then there’s the bread and butter stuff: I have to balance a budget and make sure the union stays in a position to fight the big fights if needed to advance our interests, and to think about attracting new leaders and staff so we may better reflect our members and place the union in good hands for the future.

What’s the most important thing the NEC does? The most important thing the NEC does is act as a sounding board for all branches of the union. It’s a chance for leaders to interact, whether they’re from the CBC/Radio-Canada, The Canadian Press, Reuters, TVOntario, S-Vox, and CW Television (formerly Alliance Atlantis) to see the union as a whole and to work in the interests of everyone in the union. It’s a chance to step outside our individual places of work and see the bigger picture and the similarities and differences among media employers at this particular time and hopefully make the right decisions so the union works well at all of them. It’s a place where future leaders can develop, and I like to think that with the right mix of debate and discussion, it can be a place where truly good ideas can emerge.

Barbara Saxberg – Director of Education and member of the NEC
Why and when did you get involved in the union? I got involved in the mid-nineties, when like so many others, I felt I had been treated unfairly by management. I was among the first in Toronto to report repetitive strain injuries. It was at a time when there wasn’t a lot known about it and there was tremendous reluctance initially on the part of management to recognize it as a serious and real issue. I wanted to make sure that no one had to go through what I did so that spurred my involvement. Next thing you know, I was sucked into the vortex of union action and here I am.

What is your top goal for the next three years? As director of education, I want to expand our curriculum and our opportunities for making education available to our members. I also want to concentrate on succession planning. We need more member educators with the ability to write course material and we need to begin to develop people with an interest in carrying on the education work. And I hope to be able to carry our education work to all levels of our union, at the national and international levels as well as the local.

What is the most important thing about your education portfolio? An educated membership is a membership that’s not afraid to stand up for itself. My job is to do everything I can to make that happen. Education about rights, strategies for dealing with management, and a focus on positive problem-solving empowers the individual in the workplace and makes us all stronger.

Jerome Skeete– Director of small branches and member of the NEC
Why and when did you get involved in the union? I’ve always wanted to get involved. I think it’s crucial to give staff a voice and a system of support whereby they can offer suggestions and improve the overall working conditions of our industry. When the Director of Small Branches position presented itself to me, I found it to be an excellent opportunity to jump in and get a bird’s eyeview of CMG. I’m really looking forward to gaining a broad understanding of the issues and challenges that are facing our members across the entire Guild.

What is your top goal for the next three years? To establish open lines of communication. It’s important that issues expressed by our members can be understood and solved as quickly as possible. So my immediate goal would be to set up a system where I can easily get the pulse on what issues each Guild member is facing and set up a process where those concerns can be quickly brought, front and centre, to the Guild national committee.

What is the most important thing about your small branches portfolio? To bring the concerns of our guild members to the forefront. It is my understanding that there may be disproportionate representation, especially concerning the voices of the small branches. I honestly believe that any concern, whether from the majority or the minority, is of the utmost importance to the whole.

Don Genova– President of Freelance Branch and member of the NEC
Why and when did you get involved in the union? My trade union roots go back to when I was a member of the UAW when working summers at the Ford Motor Company when I was a student. When I joined the CBC as a staff announcer-operator in 1988 in Prince Rupert, being involved in the union was a necessity since we were a small location being bullied by an absentee manager. When I moved to Edmonton as a contract producer with the NRPA I became involved because our contract was so much weaker than our counterparts and we needed to fight for more fair representation. (then we all became the CMG!) I became involved with the Freelance Branch in the late-90’s when it was created because freelancers definitely need a voice in their much-misunderstood world.

What is your top goal for the next three years? To continue to make both freelancers and the people who contract them fully aware of their rights and to try to push our rates up so we can make a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

What’s the most important thing the NEC does? The NEC acts as a vital conduit from the branches to the union as a whole and provides an important level of oversight and overall direction to the values of our labour organization.

Marc-Philippe Laurin– President of CBC Branch and member of the NEC
Why and when did you get involved in the union? After the 1981 NABET strike. As a master steward in radio at first because I wanted to be closer to the decision making process to better understand how and why we ended up in a labour dispute. The layoff round of the mid-eighties was when I took on a major role in the local and I have never looked back.

What is your top goal for the next three years? I want the CBC to recognize the CMG as its most important partner in the fight for the survival of our Public broadcaster. Over the past 10 years, the constant rangling between the CMG and CBC management has eroded any sense of trust and goodwill between the parties. After the labour dispute of 2005, the relationship with the CBC management at the top level has steadily worsened. The Branch executive is very concerned with the current state of the relationship. We are now less then 15 months from the next round of negociations. I was pleased to hear recently that the CBC management is also very concerned. There are many unresolved issues and both parties must find a better way to do business. Without an honest attempt by both sides, it does not bode well for 2009. That is priority number one. The Public Broadcaster is an institution and our members deserve better. After that, the Branch executive board will be looking at its own structure and what changes, if any, can be implemented to make it more efficient. We have all recognized that there are some overlap in some areas. Our role and aim is to better serve the location units and provide the local with the best support we can. For that we must reach out to them and keep regular contact in order to find out what they need and react accordingly.

What’s the most important thing the NEC does? Apart from its important role as the administrative committee of the union, more importantly, it is the link between the different Branches of the CMG. It allows the different member bodies of the CMG to exchange information about the issues touching the lives of their respective members. It drives any national campaign. I have learned so much about the work the CMG does in other employer groups, knowledge that better prepares the execs
from the CBC Branch who attend.

Ralph Legare– Treasurer of CBC Branch and member of the NEC
Why and when did you get involved in the union? I got involved in 1975. I had come down with an illness and my manager encouraged me to resign. When I mentioned I would be checking with my union the manager did an about face and told me I could take as much time as needed with my illness.

What is your top goal for the next three years? To make sure the CMG is mobilized and ready for a potential labour/management dispute.

What’s the most important thing the NEC does? Making sure resources are available to police our contracts.

Allan McKay– President of APTN Branch and member of the NEC
(i>Why and when did you get involved in the union? I first got involved in the union during the organizing campaign for APTN news and current affairs. I suppose I was enticed by the idea of a union because I was a little suspicious of APTN management and I felt there was something tangible missing between APTN mangement and the employees.

What is your top goal for the next three years? To improve relations between aptn management and the union and create a better understanding of the union to the aptn membership.

What’s the most important thing the NEC does? I think that being a part of the NEC is challenging and should not be taken lightly. The decisions made by that body have serious reprecussions through to every member. So, every member sitting on that body should be aware of that.

Masaaba Mwambu– President of CW Television Branch and member of the NEC
When and why did you get involved in the union? I got involved in the union just prior to the certification vote at Alliance Atlantis Communications (now known as CW Television). While attending some of the meetings I realised that I had a contribution to make which matched the goals of the membership.

What’s your top goal for the next three years? Now that we finally have a collective agreement in place, the main goal is education/tarining of the membership, getting more people involved and expansion of the branch.

What’s the most important thing the NEC does? The NEC provides a basis for collaboration and cohesiveness within the organisation. It helps in making policy decisions reflective of the membership and of the challenges in the industry we work in.

Roger Ward– Vice President of The Canadian Press branch and member of the NEC
Why and when did you get involved in the union? I first got involved with the Guild soon after I joined what was then Broadcast News in 1984. The local president at the time asked me if I was interested in being a shop steward. I did not know anything about union work back then, but I agreed, and got some coaching. Then, in a few years I became a vice president of the location unit. For a number of years I dropped out of active Guild work, but began again in the late 1990’s when I sat on two bargaining committees, then ran for location unit president. I have just finished serving my second term as Toronto president, but stepped down to become the new VP of the branch.

What is your top goal for the next three years? To learn as much as I can about the workings of the NEC, then to do my part to make sure that the committee continues to serve the needs of all the branches, keeping in mind, especially the smaller elements to make sure they don’t get lost in the crowd. I would also like to encourage some mingling of the members so that people on shop floors can become more aware of the overall union. Right now making sure that our branch members take full advantage of education courses and attend conventions etc. is a good start.

What’s the most important thing the NEC does? Whether it is true in reality right now or not I have always thought, besides the obvious financial oversite, the NEC should look for ways to spread awareness of this very modern progressive union. I think the CMG has a lot to contribute to the labour scene in Canada in general, but also in the media that have yet to be represented in any union. I am particularly encouraged by things like our private broadcasting and freelance elments. If we can get these componants to expand, that would be great.

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