Union lambastes Ottawa for forcing CBC
800 jobs, programming
Media Guild | CWA Canada
When the financially-strapped public broadcaster
today announced it would be cutting 800 positions, the leader
of its largest union rounded on the Harper government.
"At a time when Ottawa is supposed
to be providing stimulus to the Canadian economy and ensuring
that people maintain employment, cutting 800 jobs is the
wrong approach to take," says Lise Lareau, president
of the Canadian Media Guild (CMG). "This was an entirely
avoidable layoff. The Harper government forced the CBC to
make these choices over a relatively small amount of money."
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,
which is looking
to save $171 million, was unable to convince
the federal government to give it an advance on future
appropriations. In addition to the job cuts across all
of its operations — 393
at CBC, 336 at Radio-Canada and 70 corporate positions — it
intends to slash national television and radio programming
and divest itself of $125 million in assets.
Lareau notes that the government
has yet to articulate any sort of vision of how the public
broadcaster can fulfil its mandate under the Broadcast
Act, and how it can and should be financed. "Once
again, in spite of our supposed arm's-length relationship
with Parliament, CBC/Radio-Canada is completely at the
mercy of the government of the day."
No redundancy notices will be issued to employees for several
weeks. During that time, the CMG says it will continue discussions
with CBC/Radio-Canada management in an effort to reduce the
number of involuntary layoffs as much as possible. A voluntary
retirement incentive program announced today could reduce
the number of layoffs by several hundred.
"Our priorities are to try to limit the number of people
going out the door," says Marc-Philippe Laurin, president
of the CBC/Radio-Canada branch of the CMG. "We have
meetings planned with the corporation to mitigate the impact
of this announcement. We'll be exploring every possible option
to make sure that those people who do leave are treated with
a measure of dignity, and given as much assistance and retraining
as possible; and that they have the chance to return to the
corporation if and when the economy turns the corner and
the work becomes available again."
Laurin adds that many employees who are eligible for early
retirement might not be in a financial position to choose
"They're feeling the economic downturn like everyone
else and their RRSPs are worth 50 per cent less than they
once were," he told The Canadian Press. "When you
have financial analysts saying it will take five to 10 years
to recoup that money, that changes things."