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Vice Canada digital media workers seek unionization

Workers at Vice Canada, one of the country’s biggest digital news operations, have gone public with their unionization drive as they seek to join the Canadian Media Guild (CMG).

In a statement posted today on the CMG website, they are appealing to all who work at the company’s Toronto office — not just editorial staff — to sign a card pledging their support. Their goal is to have as many cards as possible signed by the end of this week. To that end, there will be a meeting at William’s Landing, 120 Lynn Williams St., between 6 and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

If a sufficient percentage of the estimated 150 workers sign cards, the CMG would apply to the Canada Labour Board to conduct a secret vote, which could result in the CWA Canada Local becoming certified to represent them.

Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, said Vice employees, like so many other digital media workers in North America who have unionized in the last six months, want a decent-paying job and a chance to build a career.

“Our colleagues at Vice are proud of the work they do and they just want to be treated and compensated fairly,” O’Hanlon said. “A multibillion-dollar company like Vice can afford to do that if it truly values its employees."



The Vice Canada workers say they believe that, given the opportunity to negotiate a collective agreement, they can come up with a deal that benefits both employees and management.

“We all enjoy working for a place that allows us incredible flexibility, in terms of both what we do and how we do it, and we want a collective agreement that will reflect and keep that freedom. What we’re looking for is a guarantee of some basic standards, because the employee handbook and other promises from management are not legally binding; only a collective agreement is.”

The workers are looking to achieve:

  • Fair wages that reflect the value of their work and more paid time off;
  • Clear journalistic standards;
  • Consistency in salaries and benefits for both employees and contractors;
  • Protection from being fired without cause;
  • More transparency and communication between management and staff on decisions that affect their lives;
  • Better managed working hours, especially in TV production

The Vice Canada workers are hoping to build on a wave of unionization that swept digital news operations in the United States beginning in June. Several, including Al Jazeera America and the Guardian US, chose to sign up with CWA Canada’s counterpart, The NewsGuild-CWA, the oldest media union in North America, which has long been a staunch defender and promoter of quality journalism.

Vice Media, which started in Montreal 20 years ago as a punk magazine, has grown to become a global multi-media corporation that operates in 36 countries. Now headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y., the company bills itself as a digital content creator that appeals to a young audience. Its offerings range from a monthly print magazine, website (Vice.com), TV and feature film production, record label and book publishing to an impending deal that would see it get its own TV channel.

 


Digital media workers who are interested in exploring how a union can bring fairness and high standards to their workplace can reach out in confidence to Karen Wirsig, an organizer on staff at the Canadian Media Guild. Email: karen@cmg.ca Call: 416-578-1651