Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

As the worker bees ready to return to the CBC hive …

A letter from a visitor and CBC veteran who wishes to remain anonymous, but who offers some counterpoints to my earlier post in which I suggested the CMG lost the dispute with CBC management:

I noticed you talked about locked out CBC workers receiving strike pay of $200 a week….in the spirit of accuracy I must point out that  by Week Three of the lockout, those benefits jumped to about $350 a week.
I say “about” because that point the Guild was drawing its funds in U.S. greenbacks from its parent union The Communications Workers of America (CWA). The strike pay fluctuated a few cents each week with the exchange rate.
This is a lot of detail for folks outside the CBC union, but I bring it up for two reasons:
– the fact the CWA stood behind the Guild with a strike fund of more than $300-million (U.S.) was, in the end I think, a big strategic factor in getting the CBC to settle. Management knew that people were making alternate financial arrangements and, that with the help of the CWA, CBC workers could have (at least financially) stayed out all winter. This was in stark contrast to when locked out Radio-Canada journalists (including then-journalist Lisa Frulla) caved in to management on contracting out demands because strike funds were tapped out.

– thanks to the relatively generous strike pay and the $1,000 signing bonus, my guess is that most CBC workers will find they had a net loss of a month's pay for  two months of pounding the pavement. Come next spring, the tax advantage of earning less taxable income will reduce the net loss even more.
Then they are those (like Bill Richards, erstwhile catering company waiter), with one or two or three part time jobs, who may even come out ahead financially.
Of course, the shockingly large 20 percent or so of Guild members whose chose not even show up on the picket line are SOL in these financial calculations…but I guess they can afford it.
Then, of course, there is the less tangible psychological cost of mindlessly circling your local CBC four-hours a day and seeing the stress written in the faces of spouse and children, wondering when mummy or daddy (or both) were going back to work, which was…priceless.
On what was achieved in the new contract…I wouldn't undersell the 9.5 percent cap on contractors.
Former chief CBC negotiator's war Michelle Sparling's war cry on the eve of the lockout, “We're prepared to die on this hill!…We want the choice!” should be taken at face value.
I buy the Guild's logic that the CBC's demands until the very last day of final negotiations earlier this month would have led to a contracted workforce of 50 percent or more within a decade, despite what management may have said to the contrary.

Compare our cap to the BBC's, which after months of bitter bargaining (and no lockout, happily!) led to a cap of 14.5 percent. 
In comparison, our cap doesn't look so bad.
I think the labour movement in Canada as a whole should also look carefully at what the Guild achieved in capping contractor numbers.
Labour history shows that CBC was a pioneer in introducing the who notion of contracting out corporate labour back in the mid-1970s (it borrowed the concept from British companies).
What long-term effect would it have had on all Canadian unions if a company as big and visible and culturally influential as the CBC became a mostly contracted out company?
It couldn't have been good for the labour movement, in my view.
Finally, a word to casual and perma-temps, like Jenkew who wrote you earlier:
No, there isn't much by way of direct benefit to you in this contract, but I sincerely believe there is going to be a change in attitude among the old sweats, like me, who've spent the last two months on the line with you.
The message the Guild has been sending out at ratification meetings over the past week is that there are other more indirect ways under the new contract to prevent much of the manipulation and exploitation of casual/temps

if the senior producers speak out!
Jenkew and others, we veterans have heard you these last two months together…we now really know what you are going through…I believe a new day is dawning at CBC for the least advantaged of our brother and sisters.
– Anon.



Tue, October 11 2005 » Main Page, Media