The public broadcaster is axing 35 positions and just reversed decision to merge CBC North newscasts

A media union representing some of the CBC employees whose current positions will be gone come January is calling on Ottawa to up its support of the public broadcaster in the next federal budget.

CBC told employees last week it had issued notices of redundancy, looking to trim about 35 positions from its news division in efforts to offset what a spokesperson for the broadcaster told J-Source is a roughly $3.5 million cut to its news operating budget, one it’s working with the union to manage through attrition, retirements and unfilled vacancies.

“These cuts come as a result obviously of some contractions,” Jonathan Spence, the Canadian Media Guild’s CBC/Radio-Canada branch president, told J-Source. “There’s lots of change in the media landscape … and it’s more important now, really than ever, that CBC/Radio-Canada gets some stable increased public funding.”

In a letter to members, Spence and CMG president Kamala Rao noted its support of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting’s campaign to increase funding of the CBC to $50 from $34 per person.

Fewer than 10 redundancy notices have been served, including for workers at CBC News Express – an airport news service that was shuttered in October – and Rao and Spence say the notices “may not result in any layoffs as members are redeployed.”

The notices indicate that any layoffs of affected CMG, unaffiliated and management staff will take effect on Dec. 31, according to a memo to staff from CBC News editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire. 

“It’s a fluid process,” CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson told J-Source. “We’re doing everything we can to protect as many positions as we can and we’ll see what comes of the conversations and the process over the next several weeks.”

The cuts were announced days before the public broadcaster said it would be reducing service in the territories, merging morning shows in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit into one newscast based in Yellowknife, a decision that was reversed on Wednesday after an outcry from community members and staffers. 

“We are moving ahead with consultation with staff for their ideas on how to move forward with our priorities,” CBC North managing editor Janice Stein told Cabin Radio.

Full text statements from CBC News and CMG follow.

Memo to staff, CBC News editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire

Nov. 14, 2019

Today, as some of you may already know, a number of CBC News Staff were given a notice of redundancy. This is part of a difficult but necessary exercise to manage a decrease to the CBC News Operating Budget this fiscal year. Affected staff include both CMG and unaffiliated employees within CBC News. 

Like every other Canadian Media Company, CBC/Radio-Canada faces challenges in the context of an ever shifting media landscape with much disruption. To meet these challenges, we have to make changes to position forward. 

Wherever possible, we have protected “feet on the street” and have looked to attrition and unfilled vacancies to help manage this. 

All affected CMG employees will begin the six-week Local Joint Employee Committee process; the lay-of date for those employees will be Tuesday, Dec. 31

This is never an easy process to go through and with that in mind, I have asked my management team to visit with as many of you as possible tomorrow to check in and answer any questions you might have. 

We will continue to support individuals and teams as we move through this process. Thank you.

Letter to members, Canadian Media Guild

Nov. 15, 2019

CBC/Radio-Canada news management (English services) put out a note yesterday informing our members that “a number of CBC News staff were given notice of redundancy”. That is difficult to hear and we all feel it.

As per our collective agreement, the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) was informed several weeks ago of an intention to reduce the workforce within English Services CBC news by about thirty (30) CMG positions.

Since that time, we have worked with CBC/Radio-Canada to minimize the disruption to members and specifically to reduce the number of members who will leave their positions involuntarily.

So, the vast majority of this workforce reduction will take place through cost savings associated with retirements, through attrition, and through an agreement to not fill some positions which currently are vacant and not staffed. The goal is to ensure that members who want to continue working at the public broadcaster have the opportunity to do so.

While we lament any reductions to the overall size of the News operation and recognize the pain associated with any redundancy notices, it should be noted that fewer than ten (10) redundancy notices (which include News Express) have been served and it is currently understood that these may not result in any layoffs as members are redeployed. CMG is working with the corporation in order to protect members.

Media Library and Archives French Services has also seen a reduction of 3 part time positions and one full time position in radio archives this month as the result of a reorganization. An additional position will be created in Toronto.

The Public Broadcaster and Public Funding

The note from News Management also states that, “This is part of a difficult but necessary exercise to manage a decrease to the CBC News operating budget this fiscal year.”

The public broadcaster is meant to function as Canada’s lead content producer and programmer – a standard-setter for high-quality and innovative programming, a principal incubator of Canadian talent. How can this be maintained under constant budgetary contractions?

In order to fully meet its mandate as Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada requires reliable and increased public funding. Those serious about significantly increasing the amount of permanent employment available via CBC/Radio-Canada must consider this backdrop.

If CBC/Radio-Canada were to be funded presently at a level comparable to 1990-91 in constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars, the parliamentary appropriation to the public broadcaster in 2019 would have amounted to more than $1,800 million.

The Canadian Media Guild has recently supported a campaign by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting to increase the funding to the CBC/Radio-Canada to $50 per Canadian, per year.

We believe that this is the level of commitment it will take to provide sustainable and appropriate funding for the public broadcaster. We will be calling on the newly elected government to increase funding to the CBC/Radio-Canada as they consider the next federal budget.

In solidarity,

 

Jonathan Spence

President, CBC/Radio-Canada Branch, Canadian Media Guild

On behalf of the CBC/Radio-Canada Branch Executive Committee

 

Kamala Rao

President, Canadian Media Guild