Human Rights and Equity Report
Prepared: Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Director, Human Rights and Equity
TNG: Future of the Industry summit, Baltimore
The current economic turmoil is battering the media industry, especially the newspaper business. There are layoffs and buyouts, most of which are rather stingy. Company after company is announcing papers closing or up for sale with promises of closure if there’s no sale. The problem is not only dropping subscriptions and plummeting ad revenues. It’s also over-leveraged companies that borrowed enormous amounts of money and they now can’t afford to repay. While much of the economic carnage is in the United States we’ve also seen layoffs in Canada and some companies are very close to the edge of the financial abyss.
About 150 activists from the media sectors of the CWA, TNG, NABET and the print sector, came to talk and find ways unions can deal with the crisis. They considered options such as training for members to increase their flexibility and versatility and alternate ownership models. Speakers included professors, union activists and Larry Cohen, the president of the CWA. One point that was emphasized was the importance of keeping members well informed about all developments.
Members of the TNG’s Human Rights and Equity Committee made sure that the importance of diversity was not overlooked, pointing out that the media usage is growing in ethnic communities and these communities also represented a source of revenues to bolster a floundering industry.
More than a dozen Canadians also made their voices heard. The sector executive now goes over the recommendations made by the summit to refine a plan.
Canadian University Press
About 350 young journalists from universities and colleges came to Saskatoon in early January to talk about the newspaper business, their campus papers and unionism. CWA/SCA Canada helped sponsor the annual conference and sent Keri Benjoe of the Regina Leader Post to speak about being an Aboriginal reporter on a newspaper. Her publisher Marty Klyne, a Saskatchewan Metis, also at the union’s invitation, spoke to the students at the same session. And CMG sent me there to talk to the students about unions and journalism.
The students had many questions for Keri about being an aboriginal reporter and probed her about how Aboriginal issues are covered. She told them how the paper’s access to Regina’s Aboriginal community has improved since it hired people from these communities.
About 50 students attended the session I presented. The preserntation started with the Rand formula and covered points such as the importance of unions, even to freelance writers. There was special appreciation for the two new prizes CWA/SCA Canada is offering, one for labour reporting and the second diversity reporting.
This outreach is part of the union’s efforts to organize new members. CWA/SCA Canada is now offering an associate membership to students. Also, many of these young journalists will be in the work place within the next couple of years. The people I talked to at the conference, including those at my presentation, said they knew little or nothing about the union movement.
On Thursday, 11 December 2008 Fiona Christensen and Joanna Awa of the Iqaluit LEC held a potluck lunch and union meeting at the CBC. The spread included caribou, Arctic Char, shrimps, pizza, salad, cake and ice cream. The members were updated on the relationship between the union and management and the latest update on the state of bargaining. Members had questions about the state of the corporation’s finances and the additional five-dollar levy. While one member said she would write a letter to the executive protesting the additional levy the others accepted the need to bolster the union’s defences.
There was also a question problems a member with a disability was having getting in and out of the building. In a subsequent meeting the local manager laid out plans to improve access. These plans have been discussed with the member who was satisfied that they would address the issues. The construction is slated for the next fiscal year when the weather is warmer.
Joint Equity Committee:
Management has confirmed Kathleen Beaug? as the chair of the Joint Employment Equity Committee. She chaired the committee’s meeting on Tuesday, December 2, filling in temporarily until her confirmation later the same month. The unions see Ms Beaug?’s confirmation as a commitment by management to the work of this committee.
December 2 the joint committee accepted proposals drawn up by the Guild’s Human Rights and Equity committee and approved by the Branch Executive at its last face-to-face meeting. The committee also accepted proposals put forward by SCRC. This movement deals with a frustration at the committee that it lacks a focus where the unions, including the CMG, come and express their concerns year after year after year with no resolution. The CMG’s Kathy Viner emphasized that the unions were expecting to work with management on the next Employment Equity Action plan. She also emphasized the unions will not accept management writing the next plan and presenting it at the next meeting as a fait acompli.
SCRC again pointed out the problem the inordinately large number of women in the lower ranks of the CBC and that large numbers of them are temps. Their union is also dealing with problems of jobs not being properly posted.
The committee agreed that some of the problems it, management and the unions that make up the CBC, include:
? Statistics: The numbers reported regularly by the Corporation do not include temps.
? Process of hiring: Clarity and transparency is needed at all levels of hiring.
? Moving from exclusivity to universality. A fundamental position adopted by the CMG HR&E Committee and the BEC.
? Universal Fund: Setting up a special central fund which programme units can draw to pay for any accommodation needed by workers. This could replace the HELP fund that needs programmes to put up about half the costs.
? Use of teams: The Corporation should draw on its enormous talent when addressing huge international stories such as the recent attacks in Mumbai; perhaps put teams together to concentrate the expertise.
? Impact: Use questionnaires and other research tools to determine managers’ awareness the necessity of Employment Equity.
? Partnerships: Management and unions work together on reaching out to under represented groups.
? Mentorship: The Corporation adopt a universal form of mentorship not only for entry-level employees but even managers, especially when dealing with equity issues.
The committee agreed to communicate, in person, by phone and by email, between meetings so that it gets to the next meeting better prepared to move ahead or even moving ahead before the next meeting.
The committee meets again in Toronto on Tuesday, February 3, 2009