Friday, September 23, 2005

CBC Lockout Watch, Day 40

CBC management has rejected the CMG's public settlement offer:

The document tabled by the CMG fails to propose any compromise on the two
key issues remaining. On Employment Status, the terms of the Guild's proposals
regarding contract employees are actually more restrictive than those in the
current collective agreement and more restrictive than their last proposal.
CBC has indicated that there is room to negotiate on this issue but not to
reduce its current flexibility.

Similarly, the CMG has not made any effort to compromise on the issue of
the qualifications a laid-off employee must have in order to replace a
colleague with less seniority. The Guild continues to seek a lower threshold
of qualifications while the CBC seeks the same qualifications threshold and
same bumping rights that have existed in the Guild's collective agreement for
12 years. CBC believes that employees must be able to demonstrate they have
the skills required to perform their new job and would like to make this the
standard for all employees under the new collective agreement.

No one expected the union to budge on the issue of contract employees. Both sides have sworn to die on that hill, and whoever moves back first, loses the battle and the war.

The union's hard line on bumping will not score any points with the public, and especially not with the juniors who might find themselves bumped to the curb after years of hustling for a permanent position whose sole qualification is having been at CBC since the Riel Rebellion.

Until CMG's latest bit of grandstanding, it had been winning the public relations war by presenting themselves as the defenders of Canadian public broadcasting. Now they look less like martyrs than money grubbers.

The Liberals must be expecting a fall election because only now have they bestirred themselves to call both sides together to make a deal:

Labour Minister Joe Fontana has invited CBC management and the Canadian Media Guild to Ottawa next week for a meeting aimed at ending the current lockout at the broadcaster, a union spokeswoman said Friday.

"There's a sense of urgency to it, and that's good," says CMG spokeswoman Lise Lareau. "I believe that's the result of Liberal caucus pressure that's been building."

Fontana could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could a spokesman from the CBC.

The proposed meeting would take place on Monday, the day Parliament is set to resume.

And wouldn't you know, suddenly Robert Rabinovitch and Arnold Amber have found the time to come to Ottawa.

In case they needed any more encouragement, Sarmite Bulte has publicly washed her hands of management and also spared a few kind words for Patrick Watson's proposal to contract out the whole damn CBC:

Frustration with the 40-day lockout by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is on the rise within Prime Minister Paul Martin's government, with the parliamentary secretary for Canadian heritage, Sam Bulte, now warning she can no longer defend management's position in the dispute.

"I'm sick about this," Bulte said in an interview yesterday. "I've said to the CBC management ... I can't defend you any more."


Patrick Watson, former chairman of the CBC, provocatively suggested yesterday that his former corporation simply be shut down and rebuilt from the ground up. In The Globe and Mail, Watson wrote: "So yes, let's put public broadcasting out to tender ... remove this totally inappropriate competition with the private broadcasters for ratings and commercial revenue, and declare that the licence will be given to the lowest bidder whose proposal convincingly meets the requirements."

Bulte called Watson's argument "a good opening" for a serious debate on the CBC's future. At least for starters, she says she would like to see the CBC have no advertising on TV, as is the case now with radio, and believes that no one has been making the case strongly enough within the CBC for more government support.

As a member of the government, Bulte said she'd be open to that appeal.

"Let's give them the money to be a real public broadcaster," she said.

Bell Globemedia has been doing its job downplaying the emerging Technology Partnership Canada scandal and Paul Martin's slipshod handling of Canada-U.S. relations, and playing up Carol Jamieson's screed against Stephen Harper, but there's only so much Bob Fife and Gloria Galloway can do. The Grits need the CBC going balls to the wall during the next election. And CBC needs a Liberal government in office to hold off the axe. CBC and CMG may despise each other, but they both hate CPC even more.

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