cbcworkerbee

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Brief Picket Report

Just a brief initial post on today's picketing before I call it a night. The mood was good on the line today despite some pretty wet weather; most people were just trying to complete their twenty hours. Most people I spoke with still seem to think this will all end by early October at the latest, but at least one person is convinced that we're looking at '06, but that was just a feeling on his part, and he laughed everytime he said it as if he found the prospect amusing.

I heard some interesting stories about managers and struck work being done which I'll report on later, and I snapped a few photos like the one of Nora Young below which I'll post throughout the week.

Nora and the Competition


Back on the picket line today I snapped this shot of frequent CBC Radio Host (today a picket captain) Nora Young, standing before the John Street entrance to the Broadcast Centre. In the background is CTV's infamous advertisement (much longer than I was able to capture in the photo; I think there are three more panels beyond the frame) reminding us that our competition is not sitting idly by.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Latest

The second latest rumour was that we may be nearing a return to the negotiating table. The very latest rumour is that returning to the negotiating table may be pointless and therefore we shouldn't get our hopes up.

Another rumour, put forth by Quietly Typing Charlie the alleged Manager, is that CBC may be making some kind of big announcement next week. CBC Radio's Executive Producer of DNTO (when not locked out) Iris Yudai may have scooped Quietly Typing Charlie, however; this big announcement may be that Rabinovitch is on his way out (partially) and that soon CBC will have a new President of the Board, info that Yudai learned from Heritage Minister Liza Frulla. More on this on at Tod Maffin's site (but you already knew that, coming as you did with an 88% probability from that very site).

So as we wait for more interesting developments we while away the time asking ourselves the Really Big Questions. Questions like, are the three Lockout Blogs authored by Managers really authored by Managers? The blogs in question are the abovementioned Charlie, The Tea Maker, aka Ouimet, and Rue, which I believe is short for Ruthie, who has to date posted but one measly post (ah, but it was a long one).

There are, no doubt, those who might say (with no small amount of scorn) "who cares?" but I do not number among those. A good number of us are addicted to following the Lock Out and in the absence of interesting developments we must occupy ourselves somehow (to the neglect of children, lawns, nutrition and personal hygiene). So I propose a simple test to determine if these alleged managers are in fact bona fide managers. Something along the lines of a Turing Test, which, you might recall, was devised to determine whether alleged artificial intelligences are in fact artificial intelligences or simply humans posing as artificial intelligences. I call this test (rather immodestly) The WorkerBee test, and it should suffice to reveal whether the managers in question are managers or simply humans posing as managers.

The test consists of three easy questions. I submit that if the managers refuse to answer the questions there is a strong probability that they are posing as managers. Same if they get one or two of the questions wrong. If all responses are correct, they are almost certainly real life managers, perhaps even CBC managers. This test, based on virtually zero research, should be correct 99 out of a 100 times, except on Thursdays, and does not require that the blogger in question reveal their identity.

Question One: Which is more important to you: Public Broadcasting, or your own neck?

Question Two: Name four pieces of (alleged) art located on the seventh floor of the Broadcast Centre.

Question Three: If required by Senior Management, would you fire your own mother?

Correct answers: Well, heck if I know, I'm not a manager, I'm just a workerbee. Speaking of which, if anybody has any better questions, please lemme know. Surely between 5500 of us we can ferret out the truth.

Cool New Job in Broadcasting

A cool new broadcasting job just opened up that I think I might apply for. I've got tons more experience than the last dude to hold it.

Apparently they've posted the application online but the link doesn't work. I don't mind competition... if you're looking for a cool new job in broadcasting, you can read all about it here.

Good luck!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Premier Pat Binns

Premier Pat Binns on the lock out...

Knowlton Nash

Knowlton Nash on the lock out is a must read...

Picketing Duty

I'll be buzzing, er, picketing around the Toronto Broadcast Centre this Saturday, it looks like, probably doing a ten hour shift starting sometime in the morning. Gonna bring my digital camera with me this time, get a few pics. With any luck maybe Stursberg will show up and strike a few poses for me.

Stursberg Locks Stursberg Out!


Ah, I have to admit that this pic of Stursberg chagrined to discover himself locked out amuses me, gleaned from Canned Clam's blog. Canned Clam's comments about the behaviour of angry mobs and inadvertantly furthering the divide are well taken, though.

Fanatics

Winston Churchill said a fanatic is somebody who won't change his mind and refuses to change the subject. Guess that makes me kind of a CBC/lockout fanatic, at least in Blog Land. I rarely bring the subject up elsewhere, leaving others to mention it first. The last two times out nobody ever mentioned it, not even family. It was weird, everybody was just busy with their own lives and later admitted that they thought about me and my family and the labour dispute, but just never got around to doing anything about it.

This time several people have e-mailed and lots of people bring it up when I meet them. People seem more conscious of this lockout, or so it seems to me.

I remember last time my department took up a collection for me and the rest of us locked out. It was nice of them and much appreciated.

Guess there ain't nobody left inside this time to do such a thing. Unless the managers want to get together and contribute some of their big fat overtime/struck work bonuses...

Anonymity

To address the question of anonymity... I just want to feel free to write whatever's in my heart about the lockout and the CBC and not feel like I have to censor myself. It probably wouldn't be too difficult to figure out who I am given the content of my posts; I suffer no delusions there. I also possess no delusions that anybody necessarily cares who I am. :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hmmm...

I really need to work on making my posts less earnest...

Guilt, and an incipient Tom Paine

I have a confession to make. Before this whole mess happened, I mentioned to some colleagues that I thought maybe the Guild needed a taste of what CEP has already gone through. Then we would all be working for the same CBC. I could try to pretend that I didn't really mean it, and that I didn't really think the lockout would happen, but the fact is I did mean it. And it's awful. It's a horrible thing to wish on anybody and now that it's actually happened I am genuinely sorry.

Allow me to explain where I was coming from.

Right from the get go I loved the CBC, and loved working for it. I felt it was like a family, a family to which I wholeheartedly belonged. So when CEP went on strike the first time I was stunned that management would allow it to happen (although I suppose one could argue that CEP was ultimately responsible). It was then that I first realized that CBC Radio might well be a family, but it was a dysfunctional family. Then, when we were subsequently locked out, well, that was the last straw. Both times the Guild made noises about supporting the CEP. Both times I was left feeling betrayed by the Guild. It's no secret that the reason the Guild has never had to go out is because they've always won their concessions on the backs of the techs.

Let me make it perfectly clear that virtually all of the Guild members that I knew when I was CEP I liked, admired, respected, counted as friends. I am talking about the Guild as an entity, not on a personal level.

With the odd exception.

I am not the only former CEP member who began to bristle at certain Guild members approaching us on the picket line, putting their arms around us and saying in this vaguely patronizing tone, "How's it goin'? Have you heard anything?"

And you knew damned well that this same individual would proceed to enter the building and do whatever he/she could to get his/her show on the air, effectively doing his/her part to help keep us on the street. I am still angry at freelancers I know who crossed the picket line to work for people like that. Angry, and mystified.

So it was that I harboured this secret fantasy of the Guild being locked out or going on strike while we, CEP, stayed inside. So that I could approach these very same people and put my arm around them and say, as sincerely as I could muster, "How's it goin'? Have you heard anything?"

I am not proud of this feeling, I do not sanction this feeling. I hope never to harbour such a feeling again.

But reading some other blogs, I see that Guild members are finally realizing what CEP members have long known. That mom and dad don't give a rat's ass about us. Don't expect any appreciation for all your hard work from the Corporation, because THE CORPORATION DOESN'T CARE.

But here's where you have to be smart about it, and perhaps a little imaginative. Because I have seen older employees who have been through one job action too many give up. Heck, I'm watching it happen to my colleagues now. The thing is, you can't give up. Because it's not the Corporation we're working for. It sure as hell isn't George Smith or Richard Sternberg or Robert Rabinovitch.

It's the Canadian Public, that's who we're working for, who we're fighting for. Our listeners and our viewers. And sometimes we're working for the people whose material we're putting on the air, whether it be writers or actors or hard luck cases or just somebody with a great story to be told.

That's why even though I'm frankly fed up with CBC Senior Management I'm not looking for another job and I now support the Guild with all my heart. Because I have a job to do and an important role to play and I will damned well continue to do it in spite of the current CBC management.

And perhaps to spite them.

Addendum

With apologies to Curious Monkey... I actually like his/her blog and didn't mean to imply anything negative about Monkey or what Monkey's typing.

Today's Rumour

Read today in Curious Monkey's Blog (you'll find his/her link off to the left) that management is waiting a couple of weeks to post conditions. Course this rumour always crops up in these situations, there was a lot of discussion about it in the last CEP lockout and nothing ever came of it. There's always the possibility that it could get ugly (Curious Monkey threatened to become Mean Monkey) if this does in fact transpire and a few threaten to cross the line and others take exception to it.

The thing to remember in situations like this is to keep your cool. Hopefully if something like that happens the Guild will step up to the plate and help out those who feel that their financial straits are such that they have no choice but to cross the line. Or better yet CBC management won't actually stoop so low.

As for me, I went to the bank today and had my mortgage deferred for a bit, so I should be cool what with picket pay and all for the next little while.

And I was impressed to see that Tod Maffin (another link you'll see off to the left) quoted from this blog within a day of the creation of the blog... probably accounting for the hits I'm getting today. Everybody racing over to see what kind of nut is responsible for spreading such dumb ass rumours... hey, I didn't believe it any more than Tod.

Let's hope this posting conditions rumour is just as nutty.


CBCWorkerbee hard at work, when not locked out

Furthermore

Didn't really wrap up the argument in that last post. The question remains, if the CBC doesn't have enough money, and yet we deserve job security for the reasons I've outlined, where does that leave us? For one thing, throwing out job security or permanent employees might allow the CBC to function within its budget limitations, but would it remain an effective CBC? I would say no, for the reasons outlined in the last post.

The fact is there are better ways for the CBC to save money than on the backs of its employees. A friend of mine who's now a manager inside walked the picket line with me the last two times out (an important fact to remember... that many of the managers currently inside have themselves picketed a few times... it's that tiny cabal at the top that's the problem). We had a bit of a saying: "Things, not people" meaning save money on things, not people. It's never that simple, I suppose, and yet...

When I think of the stuff money has been wasted on over the last few years... the big one they're all talking about on the line these days is the Niagara Institute. They paid big bucks to send all these managers to this kind of training camp to learn how to be better managers. It's probably facile to conclude that this (the lockout) is the end result, especially in light of my opinion that the lockout is not the fault of middle managers. And I'm not opposed to training managers... I know in the military they spend years developing managers/officers under the assumption that you can't just step into such a job. But it is the opinion of several people on the line that the Niagara Institute was a colossal waste of money.

My personal favourite is the amount of money spent on, essentially, walls. Man, they love to move walls around inside the Broadcast Centre. It's no wonder you can't find your way around inside there because the walls are constantly shifting. They used to have CBL Radio located on the first floor, which most people thought was great because people could come in and gawk at them inside their fishbowl. They had it set up so that you could see Andy Barrie and all his cohorts through these glass windows. In their wisdom they saw fit to pack up CBL and move it to the third floor where nobody could see them, and they had some big fancy plans to renovate the old studios. But now the old studios mostly sit empty, except for the odd training class. It's like a wasteland down there.

Because you know who's really running the CBC? It's the real estate people. Broadcasting is not paramount at the corp. Real Estate is. You might need that studio to produce some good radio but oh! Too bad! The real estate people want it for their nefarious purposes, so you can't have it. So you move out and then... hey, that's odd, the studio's sitting empty... so, why couldn't I use it again? And you never really know the answer but you begin to suspect that you have been the victim of some bad planning. Bad planning that's costing the corporation slash taxpayer some dough. Resulting in exactly this kind of labour dispute down the road when they find themselves suprise surprise a little tight for cash.

Yes, I know I'm being simplistic and I'm not in a position to know exactly what's going on, but it's these kinds of questions that people are asking themselves as they pound the pavement hour after hour on the picket line.

So to conclude, there are other ways to save money than on the backs of the employees. (And that's without even getting into the extra money we ought to be getting on a regular basis from the federal government... if the country in fact wants a public broadcaster.) Perhaps... just perhaps... if the CBC stopped wasting millions of dollars tweaking floor plans, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Too much to say

I've just got too much I want to write. There's the whole job security issue. I've said before that for the rank and file the actual issues are moot, have been moot since the strike mandate. There's no point in trying to convince us that the union is wrong and that we're taking this whole job security thing too seriously. That ship's already sailed.

But as it happens I do believe that it's an important issue, invariably misunderstood by the under thirty crowd. Others have defended it infinitely more eloquently than I can, but let's see if I can get these gnarled old fingers to convey some semblance of intelligent discourse from my stunted brain through this battered keyboard onto your computer screen.

So. Job security. The CBC wants to be able to conduct its business as cheaply as possible. Understandable, especially in light of the current fiscal situation. The CBC does not have enough money to do what it's supposed to do effectively. Well, that's the general perception inside the CBC and I'll accept it as a given for now. I don't know all the facts and figures exactly but basically the argument is that we used to get about 1 billion annually, now we get about 750 million (even if the numbers are off the essence remains true). We get a certain amount extra I believe every year, but we can't count on it, it's not guaranteed. Stick inflation on that and we're in a losing situation. So this is what Stursberg and company are up against. They've decided that more flexibility in contracting employees will help.

The under thirty crowd says, well who cares? I don't particularly want to stay in one job my whole life anyway. I'm into change. I want to be flexible. The world is changing, get with the program, you old fogeys. Contract work, freelancing may be all they know.

But then you dig a little deeper. The kid doesn't have a family to support. The kid is free to be poor. Can't look a bank manager in the eye because she doesn't have a guaranteed income, as another blogger wrote recently. Maybe works six months a year, tucking money aside for... what, a pension (because she sure as heck doesn't have one)? No. She's tucking money aside for the other six months of the year when she isn't guaranteed work. A pension? Well, that's way down the road, she'll cross that bridge when she comes to it, if she lives that long. Benefits? Who cares? She's young, healthy, has all her teeth, no kids to buy medicine for. And lets face it, if she needs some cash, she can just call up her folks. They're loaded.

Doesn't work quite that way when you're forty of fifty, retirement's looming, and you need a regular income to get a line of credit or a mortgage to feed and house your dependents. And you're not Stuart MacLean or however he spells his name, brilliant and capable of earning a fortune as a freelancer. Maybe someone with fairly nontransferable skills, doing overnight VTR, or television audio where the CBC is the only game in town 'cause they ain't hiring at CTV or wherever.

So job security is what you need. But are you entitled to it? Well, this is a question we have to ask ourselves as a society. Me, I vote yes, damn straight, go read John Locke and his social contract, it applies to big corporations as well as government, basically it applies to any institution upon which people depend for their well being. We put our body and souls into our work and our work owes us more than a paycheque and a slap on the back after six months.

But all that's just unpractical airy fairy reasoning, not likely to impress any hardnosed business manager. What may impress them (although probably not, those I've known only really seem to care about one thing: money... okay, that's a generalization, unfair, strike it from the record) is the impact on the quality of the product. Andy Barrie pointed out yesterday that when CBC Radio designed The Current, they made it a point to make all the staff permanent. No contract employees. Gee, I wonder why? Because The Current was to be a daring, hardnosed show where the journalists could well be left hanging in the breeze if they were on contract. Step out of line and you're outta there. So better not step out of line. Not so with permanent staff. Permanent staff can dare to be a little more honest, a little more cutting edge, because they're protected. Permanent staff = better product.

Wealth of experience. Bring in new people every time you want to produce something and you may well be getting superficial levels of experience. Permanent staff can have years of accumulated experience which they can bring to bear on their work. Tricks can be passed on to younger employees, experience that might well have been lost when that employee's contract expired last year, or experience that never had time to mature.

Enough for now. I'm still completely zonked from picketing ten hours yesterday with a bad cold, but I remain chipper. I may feel lousy and be locked out and there may be sweet F.A. I can do about it, but ya gotta stay positive.

Bad Picketer

Met a manager leaving the building, one of the front line managers who you know is inside holding the place together. A person I've always quite liked. My placard whipped up in the wind and struck her in the face before I could catch it. "Sorry!" I said. "Didn't do that on purpose." She took it well, and we chatted for a bit. Then I did something that I guess was inappropriate. I pressed her for who was doing what, in particular, who was working master control. Just sheer curiousity on my part, not anything that I would consider incriminating material should I happen to know it. She demurred, and I pressed on. "Oh come on!" I said. "Is it so and so? How 'bout so and so? Surely he's not capable." She said, no, no, I can't tell you that, I've already gotten into trouble once, and then she skittered away.

Afterward I felt badly. This was not a person I wanted to treat poorly. But what must be going on inside if someone you consider a friend reacts that way to you? The Brownshirts must be coming down on people hard in there.

Nah...

I don't really think it's sunset for the CBC... necessarily. I was just experimenting putting pictures up, and that was the first generic picture that I came across.

Although I do believe that CBC television may well be irreparably damaged by this action, and CBC Radio will certainly suffer quite a setback. Across John St from the picket line, eminently visible to all picketeers, is a huge... and I do mean enormous... advertisement for Desperate Housewives on CTV. It should be a wake up call for CBC Senior Management. While they dither and engage in actively destructive behaviour, the competition is not sitting idly by. 680 CFTR and CFRB are actively soliciting CBC Radio listeners. Successfully so, I would expect.


Sunset for the CBC?

sore feet

I picketed ten hours yesterday. Signed in at 11:45 on Wellington, then picketed counterclockwise around the building. My first conversation revealed how much my cold had taken out of me. I met this fellow and said, "Hey, I haven't seen you in twenty years! You're so and so, aren't you?" He said, "No, I'm whatisname, and we met just the other day." D'oh.

But that's what the first day of picketing is all about, catching up with people you haven't seen in a long while, perhaps since the last labour dispute. Cause these labour disputes seem to be happening more and more at the corporation. Part and parcel of working there. They should tell you when you first join: You'll be making x amount of money, you'll get x amount of vacation, and oh yeah, expect to be on strike or locked out say, every two to three years.

Picked up a lot of rumour and innuendo on the line. People hold Richard Stursberg and George Smith and Robert Rabinovith responsible.. One union rep told me that he feels that this cabal isn't actually getting their jollies out of locking us out, they happen to think it's the right thing to do, given the dwindling allocation from Ottawa and the impact that inflation is having on the Corp. They actually think that contract workers and more flexibility is going to save them.

They're wrong, of course. Apparently Stursberg came from Telefilm Canada, where they tried the contract worker model, discovered it didn't work, and are now reverting back to a more permanent workforce, or would like to. Same with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (I don't know anyone who works at either place, so it's hearsay... be nice if someone could confirm it for me.)

One woman on the line presented me with a rather outrageous conspiracy theory, which I only present here so that it can be quickly shot down, allowing us to move onto firmer ground. According to her (and she seemed quite upset) the union is in cahoots with management. They've worked out an agreement to be locked out for x amount of time to save the CBC money in wages, in return for concessions at the negotiating table when we return. Shades of On the Waterfront. I don't think so.

A lot of people on the line seem to think that it's all about money. That they've locked us out to save dough in wages, perhaps to make up for what they lost during the NHL lockout last year. I can't believe that that's the whole story. I'd like to know how this lockout is affecting advertising revenue.

Speaking of the NHL, some people think they will take their wares elsewhere, as they can't risk screwing up this season. If that happens, the CBC will be screwed, and us along with it. Other folks believe that this will be wrapped up about October 1st, just in time for the CBC to get ready for the NHL broadcasts.

The mood was pretty good on the line, although the Guild has a few kinks to work out. They could have used more food on the line, and the sign up sheets were handled badly, getting people to sign out and back in at 6pm. What with the amount of people on the line just then, that just created chaos. But they will get their act together, just like CEP did the last two times. There's no substitute for experience.

Now if only Stursberg, Rabinovich and Smith believed that.

Off to Picket

This post was actually written yesterday, just got around to publishing it today.

Off to do my first picketing (this time round, I've been out twice before) for the CBC Lockout. Last week I was on vacation; I'd be damned if I'd let the lockout ruin my vacation. So the lockout starts for me today. I've got a cold and little inclination to picket, especially ten hours, which is what I plan to do today, but I gotta get my twenty hours in, get that strike pay. Even though it's not a strike, it's a lockout.

Initially they said they'd honour our vacations, which in my case was put in place long before there was any hint of a lockout. Then, at the very last moment, they changed their minds. Too late to change our vacation plans, not that I would have done so anyway. In a civilized land this sort of dispute should be sorted out through some kind of binding arbitration. There is no need to deprive hard working men and women, folk dedicated to public broadcasting, of their livelihoods. We're just pawns in this kind of struggle anyway, with little choice in the matter.

This is the way it plays out: we take a strike vote. Yes, there is the semblance of free will, but you can't really exercise it. You CAN'T vote no, you have to vote in favour of a strike mandate, otherwise the CBC will walk all over you in the contract. And from that moment on, you have absolutely no say in the matter, if the union decides to walk, you walk, if the corporation decides to lock you out, you're locked out. All you can do is buckle yourself in and hang on tight. I'm one of the luckier ones, my wife works part time. Those who have families to support and whose spouse doesn't or can't work are screwed if this goes on for any length of time.

I really didn't believe it would happen. (So naive!) I'm always overestimating people's intelligence. The senior managers who have implemented this lock out no doubt think they're doing the right thing, but I don't see how this helps anybody, not the Canadian public, not the employees, not most of the managers left inside, not anybody. Probably not even the senior managers responsible, who may be vilified in the end.