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Report to the National Executive Committee – February 2009

Human Rights report
Canadian Media Guild
Friday, February, 20 and Saturday, February 21

Prepared: Michael D’Souza
Director of Human Rights and Equity
Monday, February 16, 2009

School Outreach
Pernel Woolcock, Guidance Counsellor at West Humber JMS in Toronto has again asked me to speak at career day on Wednesday, April 29. Following up on the CMG Human Rights and Equity meeting last year I’ve asked Alicia Lee and Vish Gajadhar to accompany me. Both of them have said they’re interested in reaching out to younger people. This is an opportunity to talk to Grade 7 and 8 students about working in a union environment at places like the CBC. The students at this school come from the demographic we are trying to reach. Almost all the students I talked to at the school last year had never considered working in journalism at a place like the CBC and didn’t have any exposure to unions. One measure of that speaking engagement was having one of the students insisting that her family visit the CBC the next week. Alicia and Vish are eng editors. At our budget sessions were agreed that such outreach should come from the organizing budget. The costs for this engagement include time off from work for the three of us and some of the CMG notebooks. Those were a big hit last year.

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.

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.

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/

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