Magazine article Canadian Dimension

CKY-TV - Media Wars, 'Take One.' (Television Broadcasting in Canada)

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

CKY-TV - Media Wars, 'Take One.' (Television Broadcasting in Canada)

Article excerpt

Massive concessions were what Moffat Communications demanded from the National Association of Broadcast and Electronics Technicians (NABET) when negotiations started last April 1990.

NABET Local 816 represents over 100 workers at CKY-TV, CKY Radio, and CITI-FM in Winnipeg. Union leadership knew the recession and falling profits were hurting Moffat Communications and the Canadian TV Broadcasting Industry. But the company always came to the bargaining table crying poverty and demanding concessions. Since their collective agreement was already below industry standards, the union anticipated demands for concessions would be withdrawn in a repeat of past bargaining rituals. There would be hard bargaining, conciliation, a strike vote and a predictable last minuste wage offer. The membership would end up accepting a status quo contract with cosmetic language changes and a nominal wage increase.

Aggresively anti-union, Moffat always got its way with Local 816 at the bargaining table. The company benefited from the fact that many people entering private broadcasting are highly individualistic, and more content to rub shoulders with high profile media stars than work with their unions for decent wages and working conditions.

After a few sessions at the bargaining table the union knew these negotiations were different. Moffat negotiators said there was nothiing to negotiate. Because economic conditions in Canadian broadcasting had changed, the company needed massive concessions to survive. NABET offered to disucss CKY's problems offered to discuss CKY's problems but the company refused.

Union leadership began to prepare the membership for the possibility of a strike.

Gutting the contract

That's when the membership became seriously interested in negotiations and took time to read Moffat's contract proposals. They were stunned to discover the company sought to strip away their basic rights and break the union.

Seniority rights would be lost in most areas of the agreement. On-air staff would be lost their grievance rights in the event of dismissal.

New provisions would result in a workforce staffed primarily by part times with few rights and benefits.

Employees would lose monetary benefits resulting from working through meal breaks and working overtime. Workers displaced by technological change would have no seniority rights and lose their right to the grievance procedure.

In the last collective agreement the company had forced the union to concede grievance rights on sexual harassment.

Now they were demanding the same regarding maternity and paternity rights.

Fruitless non-negotiations

On August 28, after three months of fruitless negotiations the membership rejected the company's offer by a 91 per cent vote and voted 94 per cent to support job action.

The company seemed convinced that membership would eventually cave in to their demands.

Fruitless non-negotiations continued for another three months. On November 28, the membership again rejected the same company offer by a 90 per cent vote.

Only then did the company begin serious negotiations. After 16 hours, union president John Schneider says there was an agreement on the table. Then after a short caucus company managers withdrew what they had agreed to and again demanded concessions.

In shock, union negotiators walked out. They called for a study session at 4:00 pm the next day. When employees returned at 6:00 pm they were confronted by locked doors and security guards. Thus began one of the longest labour disputes in NABET'S history.

Why did Moffat Communications want to humilate their employees, force them to sign a medieval collective agreement, and break their union to boot? And how did a relatively conservative union membership maintain the solidarity required to spend an entire winter on a below-zero picketline? …

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