Contract ratification seals deal to convert news co-op to profit-making venture
Media Guild | CWA Canada
An historic agreement that sanctions transition of The Canadian Press from a non-profit news co-operative to a private corporation has been ratified by union members who are effectively partners in the deal.
Of 100 votes cast, 93 members of the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) were in favour of ratifying a two-year collective agreement that includes a one-per-cent wage increase across the board in 2011.
Terry Pedwell, president of the CMG's CP branch, described these as the most complicated negotiations ever undertaken by the Guild. The old member-owned co-operative structure had become a problem as major media companies such as Canwest and Quebecor withdrew. The news agency needed more freedom to attract new business.
It was also coping with a pension deficit last calculated at more than a combined $34 million for both its defined benefit plans – one for Guild members and another for managers and excluded employees. Special payments were becoming unsustainable and employees agreed to pension changes to help manage the added burden.
Three major CP subscribers — the Globe and Mail, Torstar Corp. and Gesca (Power Corporation) which owns La Presse — stepped up to become equal investors in the new entity. Also with an equity stake are employees who are contributing about $5 million in investments through deferred pension contributions.
"The interests of many parties — Guild members, retirees, the company, the investors, the federal government and the pension regulatory body — all came into play as we struggled to achieve this agreement," says Pedwell.
The CMG also reached an agreement with CP on the new investment structure of the company, including details of profit sharing and repayment of pension contributions. The forgone pension contributions are to be repaid on the same basis as they were deferred, plus interest at 4.75 per cent.
Other aspects of the agreement:
• Employees who remain with the company until such time as it becomes profitable will share in those profits until their investment in the company is fully repaid.
• Employees who leave will be repaid their contributions with interest, but will not have a share in profit.
• The existing defined benefit pension plan will continue for current employees. All employees hired after Jan. 1, 2012, will be enrolled in a defined contribution pension plan to which the employer will contribute five per cent of salary. Employees enrolled in the defined contribution plan will contribute at the same rate as those in the defined benefit plan.
The collective agreement also provides for:
• a new policy on enhanced Family Leave;
• ability to substitute recognized holidays for other religious holidays so non-Christians are able to observe their faith;
• new, clarified Late Night Transportation policy: employees required to work between midnight and 6 a.m. will be reimbursed for parking up to $15 and taxi fares up to $30, on a per-shift basis;
• revised policy on overtime on assignments so that it is calculated and paid on all work over nine hours each day;
• existing election overtime protocol is incorporated as a new Letter of Understanding;
• agreement to create a work group to examine setting up a Deferred Salary Leave Plan that allows an employee to defer a portion of their salary for a period of time and then take time off that is paid with those deferred wages.