The belly of the bear

This has gotta be quick. Sorry.

There were some ‘bear-pit’ meetings in the TBC this week. They opened with Cathy Sprague putting her hand into a beehive and retrieving honey for our danishes.

They were well attended and like the last ones they were, refreshingly, all straight talk. Again, I was impressed at how great everyone looked.

Negotiations are moving slowly. There is almost no chance of a breakthrough deal this weekend, but they would love to see it happen at any time.

While there are 16 (?) issues left, they are very intertwined, so there is hope that if some of the big ones can be handled, the rest will go very fast. Not to get too optimistic, but that is one possible scenario.

Another includes weeks of negotiations mired in minutiae.

The coffee was truly awful. Shame, Ooh La La, shame!


  1. coldfeat
    Posted September 16, 2005 at 7:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I think it was Red Badger who said “management just happened to get there first.”

    Someone else there has said
    complaining about being lockout after having voted for a strike is like moaning that your girlfriend dumped you when you were planning to dump her yourself.

    But I don’t think the two are sides of the same coin. Because the risks involved with a lockout are very different form the risks a worker takes when the vote for a strike.

    Sure, senior management takes risks when they make a decision like this. They might be “retired” if things don’t work out…but you can bet they’ll still walk away with a big severance package, or an sweet offer from some anti-labour firm or institution.

    Workers take a very personal and immediate risk when they vote for a strike. They’re going to have to tell their kids they can’t have a new comic book until mommy’s working again. They going to have to choose between which utility bill to pay. Ask friends and family to call them back when they’re phoning long distance.

    The decision to lock employees out a lot less personal than the decision to vote to strike against the hand that feeds you.
    When you vote for a strike you’re taking a personal risk. You’re taking a risk with your family and your financial future. Which to me explains why we may have voted in favour of strikes in the past…but never got to that point. I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s not as if we make so much with CBC that we’ve got some fat wad of dough socked away for a rainy day. (At leas, I know that’s true for those of us who are trying to live on a northern allowance that was negotiated in 1993, in a community where you pay 15 bucks for 5 lbs of potatos or 4 Litres of milk.)

    And when I look at this particularl dispute, I think Management really did “get there before” the guild did.
    The timing of the CBC’s decision to call in the conciliator (when there was still some pretty straight forward stuff on the table) and from the CBC’s refusal to accept any concessions in the last few weeks of bargaining, and the timing of the lockout notice so close on the heels of their last tabling of new language–I’d say Management certainly “got there first.” As in, they made the decision about when (not whether) to lock employees out, even before CMG members voted in favour of a strike
    I think, reading between the lines of Rabinovitch’s article in the Globe, senior managers picked a date and counted backwards, (sound familiar?) in an effort to ensure they weren’t backed into a corner when the threat of a strike would have forced them to start making concessions, and making them fast.

    In fact, I’d say there’s a case to be made that the so-called bargaining being done by the CBC in the days after the conciliator was brought in, at least on issues of substance, was done in bad faith.

    But I’m a “labour dispute” neophyte and these are just some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head.

    And by the way…I’ve been told the strike signs we got were printed up something like 6 years ago…after another strike vote that didn’t turn into a strike.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2005 at 8:26 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    To the anonymous manager who’s standing on his/her feet cheering: if telling someone to ‘go fuck yourself’ is the ‘smartest, most cogent, cut-through-the-shit comment I’ve read all lockout,’ then may I suggest you take your head out of your ass?

    And let’s not be too quick to laud her for not cowering in the corner. She’s posting anonymously (which is damned smart, considering management’s thirst for reprisals for those who aren’t ‘team players’). But it’s not exactly sticking your neck out.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2005 at 4:13 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Time to upgrade the equipment and get out the DustBuster!

  4. Anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2005 at 10:19 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    If my skills weren’t so tuned to the corp’s equipment, you wouldn’t see me for the dust.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2005 at 9:52 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Then go work somewhere else.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted September 15, 2005 at 7:55 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Funny thing for me is my parents are proud I work for CBC.I can’t seem to muster the same enthusiasm.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 11:18 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Ouimet you are showing your characteristic flashes of narcissism again. I would not be surprised one bit if you are in fact Cathy Sprague.

    You open a dialogue and then you tell people to go fuck themselves when they contribute to the discussion. Lovely.

    I’m not sure what generation yours is, that will fix this CBC mess once you get all the oldsters out of the way. How patronizing.

    Admittedly I have no idea what you personally have done to end the lockout but I am well acquainted with many other managers (intimately so with one). They are doing struck work and they are just putting their heads down and doing what they’re told. They’re too fearful to do anything else. These people don’t “look great” and they are not happy because they know the truth about what this is doing to the CBC. They know they’re going to have to try to pick up the pieces when this is all over. They’re too weary to blog. They’re too weary and too fed up to attend meetings where they have to listen to crap. They’re too weary, and not arrogant enough, to toss off glib and silly comments about the coffee inside.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 10:49 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    oh Ouimet, you don’t need the EAP.

    I’m on my feet cheering over here.

    That’s the smartest, most cogent, cut-through-the-shit comment I’ve read all lockout. And Red Badger, yours is up there too.

    Let’s hear it for passionate, articulate, funny managers who aren’t cowering in the corner. Woooo!

  9. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 9:45 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The word “Stupid” in my earlier post was disrespectful. I should have said “tactical error” by management.The rest of what I said still stands.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 9:02 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Someone says that with a strike mandate, Dan (Oldfield, I guess) would have had us on the picket line.
    Well in more than 50 years at the CBC, Dan (and Jerry before him) and Arnold and Lise have never had the Guild on the street – not at the CBC; not at our other units such as CP, Reuter, AFP etc.
    Bobby and George (Teflon man) Smith on the other hand have locked out various other unions three times in their short tenure.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 8:54 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Wow. Tell us more about how everyone looked! There are single people on the line right now that can barely afford to eat. But please, enjoy the danishes.
    Sheesh, what were you thinking?

  12. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 7:11 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I did not choose this union. I do not support this union and many people on the line that I have spoken to do not support this union either. From my first $400 a week freelance paycheque at CBC I had to pay union dues. For 15 years I have had to pay dues to a union I don’t support. Don’t tell me I chose this. The CBC I know is made up of people who don’t take lunch, who work overtime without getting paid and who do this at the expense of their own lives and family because they believe in what they do. CBC management from the top to the people who come and in do our jobs everyday (for $65 dollars and hour overtime) are destroying that loyalty, as they destroy our hard-won audiences and public broadcasting, on a daily basis. I am not at all surprised by the cowardice on the inside, it has been evident in programming for years. Nor do I think this lock-out has been a bad thing. Rome is falling (like all corrupt powers at the height of its power) and now the peasants have realized that they are the CBC. Thing will change on the inside and the podcasts and blogs and radio shows will prove that the emperor has not clothes. We all know it now. Things will be different. We are in control now.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 6:33 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hello Ouimet from Neutron. Sorry but have to disagree with you. If managers had a union that had clout many of the recent “laid-off for unknown reasons” managers would still have jobs. The workers outside voted to protect their pensions and permanency – its as simple as that & as so many politicians even in cabinet have recently been quoted saying “if you can’t get a pension or permanancy from a govt job you probably won’t be able to get one anywhere in the future” – see Don Boudria’s (LIBERAL) upcoming book to be released this October.
    Now I have seen Bobby a few times this week and in my opinion unlike what you say – he looks like s_hit. His performance yesterday in Montreal at McGill was not his usual form & appearance – even the moderator finished the public event looking at both he & the head of the CRTC and said that the next time they would meet one of them will not have a job. Meanwhile CFL heads are bailing for more than one reason now while trying to stay polite with Bobby’s boys. NHL thinking worst than the last time I checked concerning CBC coverage. Tennis says bye bye too.
    Now lets get this clear – this controversy will end & the one left with a company with deaf ear employees will be Bobby. Too bad because I believe our President is one of our most brilliant smart guys we ever had – but he went overboard and sacrificed the respect of his flock to satisfy his god – But remember its so easy to get eaten when you swim in the same tank as your political bosses as the smaller fish always get eaten first in this arena. Hell to show how special we are at the CBC as compared to any other company our board of directors DOES NOT have the authority to fire the President – only the PM – “only in Canada you say ….pity !” Some officials in high places still remember Bobby’s wife & her foul words back in 2002.To be polite I won’t say my Goodbyes yet – a few things have yet to happen .
    Maybe Bobby can use his recently somewhat secret succesful achievement ( sorry but this one is a secret ….for now anyways) to start a LOBBYING firm after he leaves – that is if the Liberals win the next election.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 5:08 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Red Badger: Do you really believe for a second that well all share commmon ground and beliefs because we happen to belong to a union. Get real! What does a graphic artist have in commnon with a set builder – or a studio director with a travel coordinator. The union comes with the job – take it or leave it. We vote for a strike mandate to have leverage in the negotiaions – that’s it. The union is our only line of defense in protecting the interests of public broadcasting. Without it, we would all live and die by the weekly ratings sheets that have become managements bible in determining what works or not. By the way, I will take a paycheck over the Bare Naked Ladies any day of the week.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 3:57 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    the union representation comes with the job. you would be suprised how little say we actually have. Go pour yourself a scotch – you’re losing it!

  16. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 3:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Time for a break, Ouimet? Or a call to your local EAP? Yikes.

  17. Ouimet
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 3:12 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It’s funny we all look back in the 70’s and talked how we were on the Titanic, well sorry everyone the way mangement treats the professionals we are,the mast on the 3rd keel broke and we’re headed for the bottom.

    If I had a signoff for every old man who told me the CBC was broken, this thing would have been solved by now.

    I mean, seriously – take your package. My generation will gladly take your broken CBC and fix it.

    Why have those left inside TBC not banded together to take action?

    If I had a signoff for every union hack who told me the managers need to unionize, this thing would be solved by now.

    You voted for your union. You voted for your union leaders. You voted for what you wanted your union leaders to do. Then when things go wrong you cry like a baby and ask why the managers don’t do anything.

    I mean, seriously – you either have very little understanding of what a union is, or you are admitting that after all this, your union is bloody useless. In either case, grow up.

    Furthermore, you have no idea what I or anyone else in here has done to try to end this.

    No idea.

    So go fuck yourself.

  18. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 1:24 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Red Badger:

    Nice post. Tell you what, if I was the one locked out I would take my mortgage payment, and lower the financial stress and forgo the “free” lunches and entertainment and you go could go out and have fun with the BNLs although you seem a little to stuffy to enjoy anything like a concert.

    Second, when was the last time that CBC did anything but lockout employees to force a settlement?

    Unfortunately for people like you in the middle management and executive ranks this lockout has caused the public to ask “What is wrong with the CBC and how can it be fixed”

    Face it dude your bosses locked out a bunch of “communicators” and while the CBC may have the infrastructure you are getting killed in the blogs, in the papers, and on the TV stations. I believe that it is that and the political pressure being applied to your executive that has caused the CBC team to come back to bargaining in good faith…

    Does that mean a deal is coming next week? perhaps not, but the longer this goes on and the more that those that are locked will suffer the worse it will get for renewing the connection with CBC fans like me.

  19. The Red Badgers
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 12:47 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I know some of us are losing our senses of humour in this experience on the inside and outside but can’t you recognize subtle sarcasm when you see it? Managers don’t look great, they’re not fresh or overly happy. They’re tired and they want this to be over as much as you do. Trust me. Although I never trust anyone who says trust me…you can trust me on that one. There’s no party going on in here – at least you have the Barenaked Ladies out there with you.

    That said, it’s our job as managers to be inside this building and regardless of how many insults you throw our “collective evIL” way, or how many times you cry out for management to break ranks and start walking the line with you, it’s not going to get the deal done any faster. Further, putting 100% of the responsibility on management for the “stupid move” to lock out employees is a naiive argument don’t you think? The union has half of the responsibility in this situation – bargaining went on for 15 months and we weren’t even close with 40 items left on the table (some of which are petty little things that have no impact on anyone). Then you (yes all of you) took a strike vote and voted 87% in favour of walking out the door on your own. Don’t think for a second that Dan wouldn’t have had you walking the line just like you are today. Management just happened to get there first.

    Finally, as the media, the rumour mill and many overzealous union members spin their compelling tales of good-versus-evil, all of this blustering only serves to totally overcomplicate a rather simplistic situation. Here’s the deal. As much fun as it may be to tar and feather senior management (and managent generally), the lines in the sand were drawn long ago on both sides. It’s now up to the few people sitting at the bargaining table and only them. They both have their mandates from the top and those aren’t going to change.

    All of the hatred, rumours and fillibustering just takes time, focus and energy away from the chief negotiators. It would be smart if everyone could just take a deep breath, step back and let the negotiators focus on getting a deal so we can all get on with our lives.

  20. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 11:08 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Afraid I don’t buy the ‘layoff the middle managers stuck in the middle routine’. I mean these are Directors of Radio and TV we are talking about. These people are our leaders. Last time I checked leaders were people with integrity, vision and nerve. I get that being in management means ‘picking your battles’ But surely sincerer believers in public broadcasting understand that ending the lockout is a pretty solid fight to get behind. Every day we are on the line we grow increasingly disappointed with the managers we have have respected and admired.

  21. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 6:47 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The folks running the meeting drank the kool aid years ago which is why they looked so refreshed.

  22. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 6:25 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Layoff the managers inside the buildings. I’m on a picket line too. But I don’t expect the managers to leave their posts and lose their jobs. Christ’s sake. Be reasonable. The “middle-managers” are powerless in this whole thing and any action they take will cause them harm while doing no good. Direct your anger and rage at the top. That’s where it belongs. Not the poor schmucks being seconded to do our work. They are more to be pitied than loathed.

  23. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 5:26 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It has been reported in other blogs that a large number of managers (including several who are quite senior) are actually opposed to the lock-out because they believe that a labour disruption of this magnitude imperils the CBC.

    So, teamaker, here’s my question: given what’s at stake why have these managers demonstrated so little courage and imagination? Why have those left inside TBC not banded together to take action? Why don’t those inside TBC opposed to the lockout write a collective letter to the Board and the government threatening to walk off the job unless locked-out workers are returned to their jobs while negotiations continue?

    Your collective action could make a difference, could actually save the CBC. Your collective inaction should give rise to moral discomfort.

  24. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 4:57 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The stupid move by management to lock out the union has actually galvanized it. Where do you guys get your ideas? Too much “tea” I think.

  25. Anonymous
    Posted September 14, 2005 at 4:26 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Well, well – you say there’s little chance of a breakthrough this weekend even though that’s what everyone wants?! Boy, you’ve certainly changed your tune Ouimet. Your recent entries have contained dire warnings about how management is prepared to continue the lockout for the long haul. Were you just a conduit for their propaganda, did you sincerely believe it, or were you just fearmongering?
    Whatever the answer, I’m glad the truth is finally emerging. And by the way, I don’t care “how good” everyone is looking either. Puh-leeze.

  26. Anonymous
    Posted September 13, 2005 at 7:58 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    If you head back in there Ouimet, perhaps you could get a few of the bears to listen to this [maybe skip the indulgent introduction]

    I’m just a listener, but no where else have I heard – summed up so succinctly – someone identify exactly what’s been unravelling on my radio for the last few years. And explain why!

  27. Anonymous
    Posted September 13, 2005 at 7:10 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Ouimet, I know just how you feel about the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed managers you encountered at the bearpit in the TBC…Why, just today I was on the picket line in Saskatoon, which mushroomed to double to its normal size when a huge Guild delegation arrived from Regina. Many cries of joy and much backslapping ensured. There were so darn many people, in fact, normal picketing in front of CBC Saskatoon’s narrow, store front operation was impossible. So, some people stood aside and nibbled goodies left by the public, gossiped or played Trivial Pursuit while rest of us made our rounds. It was a day of high spirits and convivality and the general consensus at the end of it is that we could go on and on — here and across the country if we have to to — because, m’dear, The Union Is Strong.

  28. Anonymous
    Posted September 13, 2005 at 6:45 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It’s funny we all look back in the 70’s and talked how we were on the Titanic, well sorry everyone the way mangement treats the professionals we are,the mast on the 3rd keel broke and we’re headed for the bottom. Been there it’s been 32 years so I know!Can I still get a buy out!

  29. Anonymous
    Posted September 13, 2005 at 4:45 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I couldn’t care less how everyone looked. Perhaps someone should remind the folks inside we are all on this ship together and right now we are heading quickly toward an iceberg. Lets get this settled a.s.a.p so we can drag our sorry asses back into the building and pretend this absurd exercise management/employee relations never took place. One day people inside and out will realize this has little to with contract postitions and more to do with a company that is bankrupt of ideas -Add to that a management culture that is terrified of taking risk and you have a recipe for disaster. When we figure that out, we will be taking one big step in the right direction.

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