CBC, staff reach tentative deal
OTTAWA (CP) – A memorandum of agreement was reached early Monday between the CBC and more than 5,000 employees who have been locked out for seven weeks.
The basic concepts behind a tentative agreement were reached late Sunday under the supervision of federal mediators, but both sides will continue to work out the details and language of the deal, said Canadian Media Guild spokesman Arnold Amber. While the agreement will be signed Monday, it was not immediately clear when the CBC workers would return to work because both sides must still work out a return-to-work protocol.
In a statement released late Sunday, the union said picket lines were still in effect until further notice.
The Crown corporation locked out some 5,500 unionized employees seven weeks ago in a contract dispute that centred on a CBC plan to hire more contract workers, a move the union says would destroy job security.
“The most important thing about the tentative agreement – there’s a cap of 9.5 per cent of contract workers compared to full-time staff employees,” Amber said.
“That’s the issue that we went out on, that we were kicked out on, locked out on.”
Labour Minister Joe Fontana asked both sides to move negotiations from Toronto to Ottawa last week as political pressure mounted on the Liberal government to find a solution.
Discussions have been gong on under the supervision of Elizabeth MacPherson, head of the federal mediation and conciliation service, close to Fontana’s office in Gatineau, Que.
“Canadians want their national public broadcaster back,” CBC’s president and CEO Robert Rabinovitch said in a statement early Monday.
“The last seven weeks have been difficult for all involved but we now have an agreement that equips us to serve Canadians as a public broadcaster should.
The breakthrough came close to a deadline on a news blackout, Amber said. The deadline had been extended several times as talks continued over the weekend.
“One of the mediators came up with a solution that led to the development of this cap process at 9.5 (per cent),” he said. “So that was . . . one of the turning points in the conversation.”
The lockout resulted in cancelled newscasts, Canadian Football League games without announcers and complaints from areas of the country where the CBC was the only service available.
The agreement was announced two days before the National Hockey League season begins.
Under the tentative agreement, wages will increase by 12.6 per cent over the life of the contract to March 31, 2009, the union said. There would also be full retroactivity for all employees on the payroll prior to the lockout – including contract and temporary workers – and a $1,000 signing bonus, it added.
Amber said discussions on the back-to-work protocol would begin Monday and will work out the details sometime this week.
The agreement will then be taken to CBC employees for ratification, he added.
“There is a lot of resentment about what happened, but one hopes that there’ll be efforts made on both sides,” he said.
The upcoming NHL season – set to start on Wednesday – may have been an impetus behind the agreement, a season eagerly awaited after the league locked out its players last year.
In late September, the CBC announced it would broadcast 60 regular-season contests regardless of the lockout, which included on-air sports staff. Its first scheduled broadcast was scheduled for Saturday.
The corporation had been forced to broadcast CFL games without commentators and audio provided through public-address announcements.
The bitter dispute also saw Liberal MPs jumping into the fray, prompting some to suggest that the federal government re-examine the Crown corporation’s right to lock out employees in the future. That would mean either changing labour laws or re-examining the mandate of Crown corporations.
Various unionized CBC groups have been locked out three times in the past five years.
Backbenchers also complained that due to the lockout, many Canadians were not getting the public service they deserved, particularly those living in rural areas.
Fontana congratulated the two sides and the federal mediators early Monday.
“This is great news for the Canadian people, who have been voicing their concern over the length of this dispute,” he said.
CBC, staff reach tentative deal