Documentaries, world news from Britain, and reruns of “Antique Roadshow” dominated the CBC airwaves last week as locked-out workers took to the picket lines in what was billed as the largest labor dispute in the Canadian public broadcaster’s history.
Some 5500 workers across the country, members of the Canadian Media Guild, found themselves locked out of their offices in a dispute over the network’s desire to hire more contract workers, the Canadian Press reported.
Documentaries, reruns and BBC World News broadcasts, separated by brief newscasts that were delivered by unfamiliar voices and faces, greeted viewers who switched on Newsworld, the CBC’s main network, or CBC Radio.
Dozens of CBC workers marched outside the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in downtown Toronto, many holding signs that read “locked out.” The main issue at stake is job security. Broadcasters want more freedom to designate new employees as either permanent employees, contract workers with set starting and ending dates, or temporary workers, who are called in to fill openings as needed.
Arthur Lewis, executive director of the lobby group Our Public Airwaves, placed blame for the dispute on the Canadian government. He said the CBC’s recent practice of hiring more temporary workers is because of the corporation’s funding issues.
The CBC currently consists of 70 percent permanent workers, 20 percent temporary workers and five percent contractors. The dispute centers on what kind of changes would be made to that formula.
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