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Report to CBC Branch executive – February 2009

Joint Equity Committee

Natasha Fatah and Barbara Saxberg have both withdrawn as CMG members of this committee for personal reasons. At this time it is recommended that we leave Kathy Viner and myself as the two members of the committee. As the notes below show the committee is just entering a period of intensive work and the two of us have been there through this process. Adding a new member at this time may not be useful. We should review this arrangement before the fall meeting of the committee.

Last meeting
The committee held its first meeting of the year at the Broadcasting Centre in Toronto on Tuesday February 3 with Kathleen Beaug? in the chair. Kathy Viner and I were there for the CMG.

The primary item on the agenda was working on the new Employment Equity plan for the CBC. The last one expired last year. The corporation has retained the services of the former chair of the committee, now retired Patricia Antonucci. Maryse Graham from the Ottawa office, who worked with Ms. Antonucci on the file, is also back. The committee has accepted the proposal put forward by the CMG that the new plan should be one of universality while addressing the issues of the four groups identified by the Employment Equity Act, Aboriginal People, People with Disabilities, Visible Minorities and women. The committee is particularly interested in the Community Talent Development clauses in the new collective agreement as one means of achieving that universality.

The committee has set itself a goal of having the new plan done by April. The CMG has already submitted its own proposals for the new plan. The tri-level human rights and equity committee meeting held in Toronto last year drew up these proposals and I have reported on them in previous reports.

New Equity Staff:
Management introduced the new staff it has hired to improve diversity within the corporation. Patrick Vanier heads the team. He explained that his team is working on a comprehensive plan that includes attracting talent to the CBC and sensitizing CBC employees, including senior managers to equity and diversity issues. The team is also developing tools to manage the diversity file and collect data it needs to better identify the issue and possible solutions to problems. The team is working all parts of the Corporation to working together towards meeting national goals. Two of the other people on the team are Christian Martel in Montreal and Saumya Gautam in Toronto.

Building review: For many months now the committee has been asking for information about a study on accessibility for people with disabilities being done on the CBC’s facilities in Montreal and Toronto. The report is known as the Betty Dion report. The CMG noted that there is some urgency given the Corporation is about to do extensive renovations at the Toronto Broadcasting Centre. And, as you all know there are serious accessibility problems at the Broadcasting Centre. Apparently the report is just about ready and the committee will be briefed on it at a telephone conference call on Tuesday, February 24.

Community Snapshots: The Community Snapshots document posted on IO has just been updated. If you’ve not taken a look at it you should. It’s a useful tool for getting to know your community and is loaded with demographic information on the changing face of Canada. The tool was made by radio but can be very useful in television and online. It is also a useful marketing tool.

Broadcasting Centre

Fourth Floor Issues
I’ve been getting several inquiries about the Corporation’s plans for the Television Newsroom. John Bainbridge, responding to an inquiry, says that Corporation is going ahead with integrating National Radio and National Television operations on the fourth floor with much of the National On-line services. This work includes the construction of new radio studios and the installation of several offices along with voice booths. Work begins in April and is expected to go through the fall. The current price tag is $3 million with part coming from capital budgets and part from operational expenditures. I have a partial floor plan if anyone is interested. This is a work in progress and there really isn’t a complete floor plan yet.

Accessible Parking
For years now members and managers have raised the issue about the lack of parking at the Broadcasting Centre for people with disabilities and every effort to address the problem has been unsuccessful. Now Tony Germin of the Toronto Local Executive Committee has come up with a suggestion that is reasonable. It’s the use of parking on B2 that is currently used for rentals. We’re taking this to the local health and safety committee, the Joint Equity Committee and senior managers, including Todd Spencer and Fred Mattocks, both of whom have demonstrated a strong commitment to accessibility issues. I can forward the report to BEC members who want it.

CWA/SCA Canada
The executive of CWA/SCA Canada had an all-day meeting at the Guild offices in Toronto on Saturday, February 7. A major issue on the agenda was the loss of membership, about 500 members in the last year. The most recent cut was at the Halifax Chronicle Herald where 25 per cent of the editorial staff were given their notice. One local, in at the La-z-y plant in Stratford decided to leave CWA-SCA Canada and join another union. This was a sudden move with little or no notice given to the CWA/SCA. The union is looking at ways of clarifying rules for how locals leave this union.

Montreal Gazette: Members of the Montreal Newspaper Guild voted against a so-called final offer from Canwest Global on Sunday, January 25. There’ve been no talks since then. Contracting out is the major issues in these talks, that contracting out includes pagination, copy-editing and headline-writing to the company’s plants in Hamilton and Winnipeg.

Canadian Press: CP is facing major problems with its pension and that is affecting its capacity to operate financially. The co-operative is now moving to a new for-profit business model with private shareholders and employees will also own part of the company using deferred payments to the pension plan to pay for the equity. This is a work in progress and no word yet on how it will all work. This development, where unions work with employers to explore different relationships, is one of the examples we discussed at the conference on the Future of the Industry in Baltimore in early January.

Buy American Campaign: The CWA, which CWA/SCA Canada is a part of and therefore so is the CMG, has adopted a strong position on the U.S. Buy American Campaign. The CWA/SCA Canada executive has asked its director, Arnold Amber, to point out to the CWA that Canadians are part of the union and this campaign should expanded to a Buy North American campaign. The union has also asked the director to clarify its relationship with the CWA so that he not only attends CWA executive meetings but also votes there; under the current arrangement the Canadian director has voice but no vote.

Strategic Industry Fund: The union is looking at expanding SIF funds to deal with companies in distress. These funds would then be useful in dealing with issues at companies such as Canwest Global, which is facing difficult financial challenges. In dealing with such companies, the union is also preparing to deal with sudden emergencies such as bankruptcies of employers so members’ interests are solidly defended.

Equity Issues:
CWA/SCA Canada is examining ways of adding a member for Equity issues to its executive. The union at its last Rep Council meeting agreed that such a position is needed and the union should have a full budget for this portfolio. The executive is now exploring whether to add a seat to the executive taking it from 12 to 13 or whether one of the position of member at large should be re-designated as an Equity seat. Either way the position will be filled by an election at the next meet of the Rep Council in Ottawa in mid April.

The committee also received a report on the convention of the Canadian University Press in Saskatoon. This body received a similar report at its last meeting.

CMG-CWA/SCA Canada Staff Hire: The two levels are going ahead with hiring a staff rep for human rights, equity and diversity issues. The CMG convention in 2006 in Calgary passed a resolution directing the executive to hire such a person. This person will be a full staff rep attending to duties such as negotiating collective agreements and looking after grievances and arbitrations. This rep will also help work with officers and leaders of the union to promote and defend diversity, equity and human rights within CMG and CWA/SCA Canada in order to fulfill their objectives of being inclusive and reflective of the Canadian population. The hiring committee of Arnold Amber, Lise Lareau, Kathy Viner and myself has already come up with a job description, hiring criteria and a job posting. It is hoping to have the position filled by April. If any of you know potential candidates, encourage them to apply. They can contact me, or anyone else on the committee, if they have questions.

Website: CWA/SCA Canada is reviewing its presence on the web and is working on a complete redesign so that the site is more accessible and useful to members.

Other Memberships: CWA/SCA Canada is reaching out to former members of the union to form a retirees’ branch of the union. These people have a rich heritage of union activism that is lost when they leave the workplace. The union is also exploring ways of offering union membership to freelance workers and workers at non-unionized shops. The union is exploring what such membership would kind of services these members may want. Some services could include legal assistance in making sure contracts are valid and fair and in protecting copyright, a precious commodity for freelancers. Also, supplementary health benefits and access to a network of potential employers and other freelancers. The union is looking for someone to research this programme and to get it underway.

Laid off members: As I said at the top of this segment of the report, the union is losing members as the industry collapses. The union is looking at services it may make available to former members so they can prepare for other work. One avenue is on-line training that CWA offers in programmes such as Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop and digital photography, all skills that are useful when working online. There are also courses in writing for television and editing using programmes like AVID. The executive has set up a subcommittee to explore the possibilities. You should note that many of these training programmes are now available to all members. Check http://cwanett.org/

Michael D’Souza

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