from Ouimet’s mailbag

This was sent to me by someone who wants to remain anonymous. I post it here with the author’s permission.

Dear Tea Maker:

One day many moons ago, I sat in the basement cafeteria of CBC Radio’s then HQ on Jarvis St. in Toronto, meditating on a freelance item I was producing. At the table next to me, a elderly, grizzled NABET steward was giving an indoctrination speech to a new hire. The climax of the speech was the line, “Listen kid…Ya don’t work for the CBC… ya work for the union.”

I went upstairs where I was accosted by an emissary from a top manager known as the Dragon Lady. “We’re offering you a job. Inside. You can have anything you want later, but first ya gotta take a desk job so we can get you inside.”

As someone who liked telling stories with sound and/or pictures, this should have been my first clue that I wasn’t dealing with a broadcaster; this was a club, with various levels of membership opportunities. It was a marvelous club, full of creative potential, but like Groucho said, “I would never join a club that would have me as a member.” The membership structure of this particular club had it’s obvious downsides, including the too often fulfilled potential to drain the creative juice from the rotting tenured corpse, and then, regularily, to promote the zombie.

That was 30 years ago. Now the club is run by two gentlemen who have likely never made a program of any kind between them. They run “things” … one of them has, by accounts, run some damn near into the ground. Now, this pairing appears to work in a manner the I Ching might describe thusly: ‘the lesser man uses shadows to lead the greater man into the dark, using the strength of his father’s reputation as his banner. Heaven is turned upside down’.

Running a part of a major corporation requires special knowledge, but the pretense of knowing what one really doesn’t know should not be rewarded. From a distance, this kind of looks like having a guy who runs a thoroughbred horse event take care of New Orleans in a hurricane.

Between these persons and the people who make programs inside CBC (however employed) there is a phalanx of management so very tall and deep that the flow of creative juice is constricted in the guts. The CBC needs a weight reduction in the Centre of its body, and some blood pumped north, west and east.

Does no one available to the country via the Liberal party have the guts to make the CBC a 100 percent Canadian, non commercial, cultural instrument? (Teamaker: your comments on how to make the private sector – which for decades has admitted to the value of the a public broadcaster – put some significant money where its many headed mouths in return for the CBC recognizing the reality of the 500 channel universe are Right On.)

Why not make that a topic at the negotiating table… how do we achieve a 100% Canadian public service, or one with 90% in all time slots, on all services? How would that work? What would it look and sound like? What structure would that require? How would it include the regions? Then we’ll talk about money and pensions and power and who of us, really, deserves any of these privileges we enjoy for having the opportunity to work at something that helps to unite this nation?

There would be a sense of urgency to this negotiation. Quick, Let’s play “find the mandate before Ivan Fecan makes CTV into the REAL Canadian broadcasting corporation”.

Lets see if the union and management reps really do know their business! If not, then if and when this strike is all over, will some creative manager please do an RFP for a new drama, with a working title something like, “Tenure Track“, or “Pension by Pretension“. Or is that too original – should we wait for the Yanks or the Brits to do it first?

My sincere very best to all inside and on the line who still believe that in Public Broadcasting, you report to the listener and the viewer… not the accountants, the actuaries and the politicians, elected, appointed or just plain Wannabees.

“Wanna-be Manager Of the Frank Sinatra Section of the CBC record library in Montreal or Vancouver.”


  1. Laurence
    Posted October 3, 2005 at 5:39 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I must confess to having quite enjoyed (glad it’s now past tense) this forum. To be sure there’s been vitriol (it’s been a very hard time for quite few, especially the newbies at this game) but there’s also been conciliation. That’s nice to see.
    Thanks to all concerned for coming out. I’ll have tea with any of you.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 11:35 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    To the anonymous APS member who wrote, “To the anonymous poster who inferred that the APSers are all doing scabbing, I send you a whole hearted FUCK YOU!”

    Actually I IMPLIED you were scabbing, you inferred. I know many are doing struck work, so I included them in my little tirade. I also know not all of them are doing it, and others are actually actively refusing…which takes a huge heart. I don’t know what I would do if I was in the APS members’ shoes.

    Actually the senior management is to blame for creating the artificial divide between the APS and CMG. Many APS are former CEP members. Some were made APS just before the strike a few years back. Since their skills are the most fresh, they are probably the most desired APS (and the most pressured) to fill in for us during these lockouts. Other APS are too far removed to be of much help during these things.

    My tirade was mainly aimed at those APS who were actually members of the union a few years back and are now gleefully using their skills to prolong the lockout and line their pockets. I know there aren’t too many, but they are making a difference.

    Sorry if my dumb little tirade hurt you personally. I’m glad to hear an APS chime up and say something about all this. Thanks.

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

    ahh, ivan… what an inspiration. i wonder how much money he and sandra have pocketed from the good ship ctv.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 8:05 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Please dont mention Ivan Fecans name…It infuriates me.. hmmm Lets change the newscast to 9pm….then after ratings plunge to record lows…lets get hired by CTV ..I DONT GET THIS BUSINESS…FOLKS THIS IS ONE STRANGE BUSINESS

  5. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 7:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Whoops, sorry – relic = Stafford Philips.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 7:49 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    To the anonymous poster who inferred that the APSers are all doing scabbing, I send you a whole hearted FUCK YOU!

    You think it’s been fun in here all this time, trying to balance shutting the fuck up versus doing the right thing and railing against this bullshit lockout every chance we get – while still trying to count on our next contract/casual start slip renewal?

    Just remember there are APSers in here who are NOT managers AND refusing struck/replacement work. We’re the ones that cross the line and do our two minutes and then some. The ones out looking for our locked out colleaugues that do the same goddamned jobs we do, but under some antiquated configuration that we didn’t get — for whatever reason. It’s not about that right now.

    It’s about all CMGers back to work ASAP, on conditions that they can live with, and a senior management that is transparent in its long term planning and seeks consensus over feudal hegemony.

    Cut the shit Ouimet. If you really are young enough to know ‘all your base …’ and still have a profound knowlede of history and managers of our great mother corpse and other goings on, I would be quite surprised. You probably know that Relic’s real name is Stafford Phiiips, too. Whoop dee doo.

    Most likely, you’re team written. The vacillations of your posts point to that over this shit sprayed seven weeks.

    Boo hoo hoo, I’m stuck in the TBC and nobody loves me. Excuse me while I puke. Oh, but wait a minute, she’s all about nation building, too!

    I bought into your shite. I even thought of becoming a tea maker.

    I only hope that you ARE a single person, probably one of those shipped-in-to-the-TBC deers in the headlights. If not, nice work Smith/Mattocks et al. Doesn’t really matter. You’ve done your part to show how petty this entire exercise really is.

    I’ll think of you fondly when I welcome my co-workers back, Ouimet. We’ll open up the work juuuuust where it was on August 14th. And we’ll hug each other and get past the brick wall of ‘recovery’ in time for a bitchen holiday season (ulterior motives pending).

    You, on the other hand will either be one or two degress of seperation from the wrath of the heritage committee, or back to your local plant, trying to keep a tight cap on exposing your own roller coaster ride through this ‘dark age’ of CBC history. I hope you’ll be able to look the CMGers in the eye when they return!

    I know I will.

    I’m thinking of baking a batch of iced cookies with the red gem on them to welcome everyone back. How cool would that be?

  7. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 7:10 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Your two minutes goes along way and ir WILL be remembered.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 5:20 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Well, I’m glad I asked the questions and I’m really glad you answered them. According to your responses, you will very likely be treated with respect by the pickets in your department. Of course, I have a feeling motivating them may be a slightly different story. Please don’t take that personally…it’s not. I’m sure it’s disheartening to read the venom against all managers on these blogs. But, the truth is, many have not taken the few minutes a day it takes to pay some respect to people who have been so disrespected. The anger is at them, not you. You are likely to get a slap on the back and a big thank you from the workers who have seen you do the right thing. Bitterness to the cretins aside, we don’t hate ALL managers, some will remain trusted friends and colleagues despite this insanity.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 4:50 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hi again, it’s Not-Invited-to-Jack-Astor’s again. To answer the good questions posed to me: “Do you sneak in through the food court or do you wait your two minutes?” I wait my two minutes. I was late for a meeting once and tried to go through the food court, but couldn’t find the entrance near Front Street and ended up running into CMG co-workers and talking for five minutes anyway. So much for the meeting. And so much for the food court.

    “Do you avoid the gaze of pickets on the line or do you go up and ask them how they are doing?” If I see someone I know, I go up and chat with them–or they come up and chat with me. And we always ask each other how we’re doing. If I get to the line and don’t recognize anyone, I generally chat with the picket captain. But if he/she doesn’t want to chat or is too busy, that’s fine, I’m okay with just standing and waiting.

    “Have you used what you will be getting in overtime to buy a round of Tim’s for the people on the line or are you planning a nice little winter getaway?” So far, neither, I’m sorry to say. I can’t get a straight answer about how much–if anything–extra I’m going to be paid or when. And I’ve been caught too many times making plans for (or outright spending) money that turns out not to exist. But it makes me think that, if this goes on through tomorrow, I should find a way to get something for the people in line.

    Hell, I should have gone to the bake sale.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 4:38 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Matt, if this ends soon you might get an “end to seven weeks of constipation/best bowel movement” medal.

  11. Agent 86 again just in case
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 4:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    In case you’ve moved on from the previous blog:

    While we’re under this neverending cone of silence, get smarter, Ouimet! Can you accept that we, at best, don’t care about all the long hours you and others are putting in to keep the CBC going, and, at worst, we resent you for not stopping? We think that this lockout is so damaging to the future of the CBC — especially, the length of it — that we want you to be like Paul Workman, something that would undoubtedly end the lockout. If you can’t be, fine. But don’t complain that we aren’t too sympathetic or even a little abusive. We’re hurting more than you.

    Also, get smarter on trying to divide us. It’s absolutely none of your business what our union may or may not be doing about those not picketing. Whatever the essence of your comments, you are not in any position to be giving us advice or warnings in this matter. Regardless of what you write, you are an anonymous manager and who the hell knows what your true motivations are?!

    I say all this to explain why people might be throwing verbal spears at you. You entertain, you inform, but at times, you also really throw salt into the wound.

    Oh, and the answer to your persistent question, Matt: The Hero of Capitalist Labour Medal.

  12. Fuck Ouimet
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 4:17 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Hey Ouimet

    FUCK YOU!!!!!

    Not an x-CEP member

  13. Matt Watts
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 4:14 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    What kind of medal?

  14. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 3:42 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    To the Manager who has never gone to Jack Astor’s parties and does not think the OT is worth it.

    I have a couple questions. Do you sneak in through the food court or do you wait your two minutes? Do you avoid the gaze of pickets on the line or do you go up and ask them how they are doing? Have you used what you will be getting in overtime to buy a round of Tim’s for the people on the line or are you planning a nice little winter getaway?

    Your answers to these questions and other like it will tell you if you’ll be able to work well with the locked out.

    And for managers who decide to start pouring it on following a tentative agreement, before ratification, don’t bother, it won’t work.
    For those who have treated us like human beings throughout, you have proven that maybe you are qualified to manage.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 3:35 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    You don’t have to destroy something to restructure or fix it. I work in television and I agree it’s broken. But throwing the baby out with the bath water is as short sighted as locking out 5,500 employees.


  16. Dr. Strangelove
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 2:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Yeah, now is the time to re-invent the CBC (at least TV) in a way that is relevant. The way it currently is ‘set up’ is not sustainable; it’s hopelessly fat and dinosaur-like, badly managed and abused by both management and staff alike.

    It has, unfortunately, evolved into a bureaucracy almost completely bereft of vision… Those who have good intentions and a creative spark are often dragged into the dark pit of mediocrity simply because maintaining the corporate status quo (within the parameters of CBC culture) is, in reality, the most defining aspect of working life there. There’s too many cooks and they’re all just flippin’ burgers.

    The only way to save the idea of the CBC is to destroy it’s current manifestation and build something new, relevant and creatively viable.

  17. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 2:54 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Come on, Ouimet – lighten up a bit. Isn’t that how you put it?

    To the other manager who just posted — I know that last post isn’t the reality of CBC management but it was meant to be a bit of a poke at some of the stereotypes presented on some of the blogs such as Ouimet’s.

    Anyway if Ouimet wants to dish out parodies of “the Drone” or any other locked out blogger she should be prepared for a plateful herself.

    Let’s hope this lockout is over soon and we can have a real laugh again about things that really are funny.

  18. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 2:40 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The last ‘anonymous’ posting — well, before mine — is an amusing riff on one of Ouimet’s previous posts, but it’s also wrongheaded. Or, at least, it doesn’t speak for me.

    I am a manager, one of the ‘locked-in’. I am not making a ‘shitload of money’ and I’m not expecting to. I’m certainly not making enough to justify the many many hours of overtime and mounting frustration that have resulted from the lockout.

    I have heard many derogatory things about this lockout, and I have said quite a few more. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I’ve never been to the ’śJack Astor’™s’ť parties. I didn’t even know what they were until the day both you and I saw the pictures.

    I did come up from the bottom, I guess – from the bottom, from the sides, from wherever – and I’ve been casual, permanent, contract, union, confidential, some of them several times over. I’ve never stepped on a co-worker…and whatever I’ve climbed to, I don’t think it’s the top. The bottom of the top, maybe. The top of the bottom.

    All that aside, I have to hope that this is coming to an end, and that we will all be back working together, and that we will all find a way to do so. Or else, why come back at all? (And, in my case, why stay?)

  19. Ouimet
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 2:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “The relevance of this blog is declining at an accelerated pace.”

    I’ll make it easier on you:

    I’m not a negotiator. In fact, I am far away from them and quite busy. If there is any news, I won’t be posting it before anyone else.

    Best to go to another web site if you are looking for relevance.

    Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

  20. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 1:25 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The relevance of this blog may be declining at an accelerated pace if the extension of the media blackout and the rumours on Tod’s site and Robin’s blog are true.

    In the meantime here’s a repeat of “my” take on one of Ouimet’s blasts from the past.


    I guess some people picture management in this building to be currently surrounded by maxed out gold cards and lining our birdcages with bad press clippings.

    But the truth, of course, is much different. I’m not going to candycoat it. Everyone here is making a shitload of money.

    Not once have I heard a single derogatory thing about this lockout. Not once. Not even a mutter. Speaking up means not being included at the ’śJack Astor’™s’ť parties. And I just love Elton John.

    Some of us came up from the bottom – we were casuals and tea makers for years before becoming managers. We stepped on our co-workers and climbed to the top.

    Others never did anything and still got promoted. They learn fast.

    But remember that the average manager was never given any choice in this. We have no free will. If we don’t work, we will be fired or promoted a number of times to everyone’™s amazement. Simple as that.

    I am sleeping in here. And I am eating all my catered meals in here too. I have never eaten better. I have given up on makeup. Too bad all the makeup artists are locked out. I have not been outside in the sun for what seems like a long time. It’™s tough to see the sunshine when your head is up your ass.

    You guys may be locked out, but I’ve lost the fucking keys.


    I’m sure that Ouimet herself would smile at that.

    Good luck to our negotiators tonight.
    Might be worth staying up til midnight to see if Ouimet and the rest of us are putting up “the last post”. If not folks we’re now talking months rather than weeks.

  21. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 12:01 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The relevance of this blog is declining at an accelerated pace.

  22. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 12:00 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I heard today that management is hiring a consultant to help them get through the hostility they’ll face upon a settlement and our return to work. :-)

    As part of the return to work protocol, I think the management and APS should all be fined an amount equivalent to the bonuses they made for prolonging this. The money can then be distributed to those who they locked out. That would be a nice goodwill gesture. It would go a long way toward mitigating the hard feelings.

  23. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 11:21 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m starting to think that we should lock out the managers when we go back. Maybe make it a day of protest or something. I’m not sure of the best way to organize this but it would be interesting to send a group message of loss of confidence.

  24. Matt Watts
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 10:49 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    What kind of medal?

  25. Justin Beach
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 10:25 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece


    I support the union in this. Stursburg, Rabinovich, Smith et al., are trying to win political points. The way you win political points these days is by saving money. Now, if a parent said to you – I’ve saved a fortune on the family budget – I had the hydro and phone turned off and put the children up for adoption, you would likely not be impressed. In the world of modern corporate/political management however this entitles you to a fat bonus, a better job and possibly a medal. The current ‘vision’ is to save money at all costs, even if it means destroying the thing they are supposed to manage.

    I support the union (because they are right, or at least are closer to right than senior management). Overall, I support the CBC – the idea of the CBC, and what it can and should be: That is the basic idea behind to serve as a monitor, watchdog, and to promote new ideas and talent, in short to be a constant reminder of what should be happening and to sound alarms when what should be happening isn’t.

  26. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 9:44 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Nice story. Did NABET hire and fire back in the day? I have never been hired by the union either in public or private broadcasting. I was hired by a manager. Seems like an urban legend to me.

  27. Anonymous
    Posted October 2, 2005 at 8:19 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Bravo Wanna-be-Manager. Does Frank Sinatra sing “To dream the Impossible Dream”?

    I guess that’s most of us are still here.

    We keep thinking some management, some government, someboday, anybody is going to restore public broadcasting to some of its former glory.

    I’m really afraid that this management team has knocked the “dreaming the impossible dream” out of me. I guess we’ll see when we get inside.

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