Sunday, October 09, 2005

It Was All for Hockey, Not for Us

Sadly, the outcome of the bitter dispute between the Canadian Media Guild and the CBC was all in the name of hockey. That’s like George Bush fighting his “War on Terror” against a country that was not the root of terrorism, but has a huge supply of oil. The CMG claims a great victory, not only for us, but for labour relations history. There was no great victory. The real winner was the NHL, with the CBC a close second.

CBC’s workers were the victims of a 8-week lockout and our union took 17 months to settle for a mediocre and vague collective agreement. Our employment rights and our ability to carry out our chosen careers have been put in jeopardy in a five-year agreement for the benefit of couple of hockey games.

It’s been treated, by both the corporation and the union as a “done deal” before voting was complete. My question is “who audits the vote counting?” The CMG has decided they have a victory, so will they put the same kind of spin on their official results, as they put on the agreement.

After a full day at a ratification and voting meeting in Toronto, it was clear there are a significant number of dissenters. And non-permanent staff were not the only ones with serious issues. Union leaders dodged most questions by blaming unsolved problems on what they “inherited” from ACTRA (The CMG has had a decade or more to solve these problems, but they still make our previous union the scapegoats.) I can say, from my experience it was a lot easier to negotiate a freelance contract under ACTRA. President Lise Lareau, backed into a corner, took the easiest, but least believable, way out. She denied haveing said what the questioner accused her of saying. Her credibility has been brought into serious question. Asked if we had settled just because of hockey, chief negotiator Dan Oldfield answered several times with meaningless words. Pressed by the crowd to “ANSWER THE QUESTION!”, he admitted to have “played the hockey card" to get a settlement.

The CMG represents journalists. Yet, they agreed that the blogs discussing the Lockout would be taken down. I am disappointed in those who have already complied. Journalists stand for free speech. Oddly, it was our union leadership, at the ratification meetings, who were still throwing cheap shots and personal insults at CBC management.

This blog will continue until the CMG recognizes freelancers.

In an earlier posting, I was accused in an anonymous comment of “impugning the integrity” of Freelance Committee President Don Genova. I did not impugn Genova’s integrity. I raised a question (and a fair one). As journalists and citizens, we raise questions about our politicians, corporate leadership, celebrities, athletes and anyone else who holds themselves out for questioning. Why is it wrong, just because I have to pay union dues, to raise questions about the union? It takes two to tangle and neither union or management is always right.

The CMG bragged about the 87% mandate they were given in the strole vote. They never qualified that by mentioning that it was 87% of the 60-something percent of those who voted. In reality, that’s a slim majority.

I urge serious skepticism about the results of the ratification vote.

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