Addicted to novelty since 2001

CBC Labour Action Looms

As Tod Maffin (and the rest of the world) reports, the CBC has given the Canadian Media Guild 72-hour lockout notice:

In a statement, CBC said it “doesn’t want a work stoppage and we are extremely disappointed to have to take this action. However, after almost 15 months of negotiations, our key issues remain unresolved – issues which are crucial to CBC’s success as Canada’s national public broadcaster and as a well-managed company in a competitive media marketplace.”

The CMG, representing over 3000 CBC employees, are seeking:

Now, I value the CBC above most other Canadian institutions. It plays a vital role in our society, and I want its employees to continue to make quality programming.

When evaluating union disputes, I often compare the employees’ situations to non-unionized industry. I don’t know much about media jobs, and the CMG site doesn’t help much, but let’s take a look:

  • The lowest level of producer at the CBC starts at CAN $50,800. A producer for a ‘national lineup’ starts at CAN $70,157.
  • The lowest level of reporter starts at CAN $39,197. It looks like a senior reporter can earn as much as CAN $75,784.
  • The lowliest newb on the totem pole is the researcher, who starts at CAN $$27,856.

If you ask me, those wages sound pretty fair through the low-to-mid range, but maybe a little cheap on the high end. Of course, if you’re a senior level public persona at the CBC, you’ve got plenty of alternatives for supplementing your income. If you’re a senior level technician, not so much.

Checking out the benefits package, it looks as good as private companies I’ve worked in.

If the wages and benefits are satisfactory, then what’s the CMG after? “Permanent employment, not temp jobs” and “no contracting out of work at the CBC”. That second point is laughable. Contracting out and outsourcing are new standards of doing business. I have a tiny company, and we outsource some design work, web development work, bookkeeping and accounting. While I can appreciate the value of a sizable core of permanent employees, if you can maintain quality, why not outsource? Aren’t you just spending Canadians’ money wisely?

More dubiously, the CMG is looking to “achieve a better work-life balance for our members”. Isn’t everybody? Unfortunately, the CMG publishes all of one fact to support the position that their employees are especially “stressed, overworked and in need of time to regenerate”.

We know, for example, that sick leave for both short- and long-term disability is on the rise. More than 40% of long-term disability claims at the CBC are for “non-psychotic mental disorders” – in other words, stress and burnout. The number of claims of this type is disproportionately high compared to other Canadian workplaces.

I’m only speculating, but could it be that sick leave is on the rise because of an aging CBC staff? . Regardless, I think if they checked, the CMG would find that most organizations display that kind of ratio for stress and burnout leave. After all, through the nineties, employee assistance programs reported a 220-per-cent increase in stress cases.

In short, I need to be convinced that the CMG has a strong case. Anyone?

4 Responses to “CBC Labour Action Looms”

  1. 'nee

    If you ask me, contracting out rarely provides the same level of service. It may for small businesses, but in my institution the word “contractor” is a joke. Contractors often do the bare minimum, to get off the site as fast as they can; in specialist fields particularly, they’re often over-subscribed and aren’t willing to give up more work to provide better quality and response time for the current customers. To me, what contracting out means for a large company is the lowest-bidder mentality. But the lowest-bidder often got that way by cutting corners and counting on the fact that legal action costs more than seeing out the contract.

    Just a question: what ARE the industry standard wages? What about in the US?

  2. 'nee

    (Anecdotal evidence isn’t evidence at all, but hay. I had an uncle working at the CBC who retired a few years ago — he took early retirement, because he quote unquote couldn’t stand working there anymore. Something about stress and mandatory unpaid overtime and managerial bullshit. He was an executive himself — just think what the tech and creative staff must get).

  3. Sue

    The punctuation and grammar in that quote from/about CBC’s statement make me shudder.

  4. Anonymous

    Permanent employment (a career) is not an unreasonable goal. It simply speaks to workers being treated with dignity and respect by their employers. The who-needs-ethics-as-long-as-we’re-profitable mindset of management has got to go.

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