Union Leaders Press Canadian Government Over 5,500 Locked Out Media Staff

Media trade unionists backed by world union leaders today made a global call on the Canadian Government to press the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to settle a bitter dispute involving the lock-out of 5,500 media staff.

The International Federation of Journalists, and Union-Network International backed by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions had meetings with Canada’s ambassador to Belgium, with similar protest being carried out in cities including Rome, London, Washington, Jerusalem, Canberra, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Seoul, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, and Boston.



IFJ General Secretary Aidan White and Canadian Ambassador in Brussels John McNee, with Natacha David (ICFTU, right) and Rachel Cohen (IFJ, left)

Members of the Canadian Media Guild have been locked out of their offices since August 15 as contract negotiations have stalled on the CBC management’s position that it should be allowed to turn full-time jobs with benefits into temporary positions at its discretion.

“The Government of Canada must not interfere in the operation of CBC, but it has a duty to protect Canada’s good name and the reputation of its public broadcasting service which is being seriously damaged by the actions of CBC management,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

Natacha David, editorial coordinator in the Communications and Campaigns Department of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, attended the meeting with Ambassador McNee to express the ICFTU’s support for the CMG workers.

In a show of global solidarity, unions in London, Jerusalem and Washington held protests on Monday and union representatives in major press cents around the world met with Canadian ambassadors and delivered letters of protest to the Canadian government.

In London, locked out CBC employees and members of the National Union of Journalists and the technicians union BECTU picketed in front of Bush House, the BBC World Service headquarters.


Members of Britain's National Union of Journalists protest in front of Bush House, the BBC World Service headquarters

In Jerusalem, locked out CBC employees protested in front of the Jerusalem Capital Studios, which is a center for media companies in the city.

In Canberra, a delegation from the MEAA met with the Canadian High Commission and Michael Brissenden, political editor for ABC TV's national 7.30 report and part of the delegation, talked about the issues on a local Australian morning radio show.


Michael Brissenden, political editor at ABC, with Virginia Haussegger, Senior news reader for ABC TV Canberra.

In Washington, The Communications Workers of America will hold an afternoon rally led by CWA President Larry Cohen, The Newspaper Guild-CWA President Linda Foley and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. TNG-CWA is the parent union of the Canadian Media Guild.


CWA protesters at the Canadian Embassy in Washington

At his meeting with Ambassador McNee in Brussels, Mr. White said the IFJ organized the Day of Action to support the Canadian Media Guild and to highlight a troubling trend in journalism: the increasing use of temporary workers. This trend has made journalists more vulnerable as it deprives them of employment security and social benefits, which has in turn made their jobs less desirable and thus filled by less skilled and experienced workers. As the use of temporary workers increases, the quality of journalism will fall, the IFJ has warned.

After listening to Mr. White’s and Ms. David’s comments, the ambassador said he would deliver a letter expressing the IFJ’s concerns to Canadian Prime Minister Martin.

While the Canadian government does not have direct control over the CBC, Ambassador McNee said, the government does have an interest in seeing the matter resolved quickly so that the CBC does not lose its audience or renege on its public service mandate.

The ambassador said that the Canadian government was aware that many groups abroad have raised concerns about the CBC lockout and the issues at stake in the contract negotiations.

The IFJ and its member unions have condemned the CBC management’s confrontational style with the union and are calling on the Canadian government to intervene to ensure that the CBC negotiates fairly with the CMG to bring a swift conclusion to the dispute.

For more information call Rachel Cohen +32 2 235 22 00