Bonn, 12th September 2005
Re: Lockout of Union Workforce Employed by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
On behalf of the journalists and media staff in membership of the German Journalists Association (DJV), I wish to register our strong concern over the actions of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which locked out its 5,500 employees who are members of the Canadian Media Guild.
It is now four weeks since the CBC management took this unprecedented and unprovoked action, and it raises serious questions about the commitment of Canada’s public broadcasting network to international labour standards and to the maintenance of basic employment rights within the public sector.
This dispute, over renewal of a collective agreement that defines the employment conditions of the largest single body of creators and media employees in Canada, has both shaken public confidence in the CBC and damaged the network’s international reputation.
When one of the world’s leading public broadcasters tries to impose a regime of work so contrary to Canada’s long-standing record of social protection and quality employment, it threatens not only the quality of content and standards in journalism and broadcast production generally, it also raises fears about the very future of public media.
The Canadian Media Guild is willing to negotiate a new contract that takes account of the changing nature of the broadcast industry, and which will also equip the CBC for the challenges of the future. But the Guild has, rightly, refused to accept that decent working conditions and employment rights should be diminished in the process.
Far from looking to negotiate a fair settlement in the interests of all, the management of CBC has chosen the path of confrontation and has tried to intimidate the workforce. We cannot accept that locking out workers is a credible industrial relations strategy that should be used by an agency of any democratic country.
Journalists and media staff across the world are today protesting in solidarity with their Canadian colleagues. We do so because we want to express our support for the staunch resistance of trade unionists at the CBC, who refused to be bullied by a management that appears to have lost its way and is determined upon confrontation.
We share common concerns with our Canadian colleagues. Everywhere we see that people who yearn for quality information services struggle to maintain public service values in broadcasting. In many countries broadcast staff and public interest groups struggle to defend public service media.
Public broadcasting, based on respect for national social, democratic and cultural values, is under tremendous ongoing pressure from a strident private sector lobby, which wants to eliminate all forms of public funding for broadcasting in favour of commercially-driven media. We know that if they succeed, this will ultimately lead to populist and low-quality programming that prioritizes the interests of advertisers and commerce.
The CBC's strategy and actions play into the hands of those who wish to do harm to the future of public service media. This dispute is, we believe, an example of where a management under pressure to compete in a difficult market environment, has committed the cardinal error of stepping back from the core principles upon which the Corporation was founded.
We urge the Canadian Government to insist that CBC management revisit their position on contract workers, and to ensure a swift and just conclusion to this dispute that puts the interests of Canadians, along with fair and decent conditions of employment, at the heart of the resolution. We call on you to renew Canada’s commitment to the highest standards of public service broadcasting and to encourage a genuine social dialogue between the management and union at CBC.
Standing alongside our colleagues at the CBC, and with media trades unionists from other countries who have joined the protest today organised by the International Federation of Journalists, we ask you to urge Prime Minister Martin to act now to restore the good name and reputation of public broadcasting in Canada.
Consultant for International Affairs