This week the Canadian Media Guild advised TVO and CEP that it intends to ask the Ontario Labour Relations Board to decide which union has the right and responsibility to represent employees in some job classifications, and who can be called upon to do specific kinds of work.
It is no secret that the broadcasting industry is in a state of transformation due, in large part, to changing technology. TVO itself has changed over the years, with less television production and more emphasis on online content. Technology has radically changed production methods across the industry and that affects the tools employees use, the content we create and the expectations on us. Employees and unions across the industry have had to adapt to the new and emerging realities while negotiating new ways to secure decent working conditions and opportunities for the future.
The Guild has experience with the changing nature of media work at TVO and other workplaces. It has always been our approach to help our members look to the future and we believe that peoples’ jobs are defined by their functions rather than the tools they use, because those tools are in a constant state of flux. Put another way, media jobs continue to exist but the tools change and sometimes disappear altogether. When we negotiated our current collective agreement in 2007, we included a letter of agreement that contemplated a tripartite process so that the Guild, CEP and TVO could discuss changes in work assignments and the nature of the work. The CEP has so far declined to enter into such an agreement or to participate in such a process.
Since the three groups can’t agree, it’s not surprising that a number of conflicts have erupted at TVO. As of the beginning of this week, there were close to a dozen outstanding grievances being heard by several arbitrators. The questions in all of these cases are essentially the same: to which of the two unions (if any) should the employees belong? And what sorts or combinations of tasks are they allowed – and not allowed – to perform?
The three parties agreed to have this group of arbitrators make those determinations, with the understanding that the arbitrators would have the mandate and the responsibility to read both unions’ collective agreements and make the appropriate interpretations prior to issuing their decisions.
However, in a recent decision, one of the arbitrators stated that she doesn’t have the authority to consider both collective agreements and would not consider the CMG’s agreement in any CEP grievance that she was hearing. This essentially leaves the CMG with no choice but to file its own grievance(s) on the issue, should it want the CMG’s collective agreement to be applied to any work that remains in dispute. In other words, the process we entered into to resolve the disputes, might only lead to further grievances and arbitrations.
The CMG’s goal is always to try to resolve conflicts in an efficient manner, and to resolve them as fully and completely as possible. The arbitrator’s decision means that the current process isn’t efficient, nor will it put the issues to rest. That’s why we are planning to make an application to the labour board. The board has the authority that an arbitrator doesn’t: to apply and interpret more than one collective agreement and determine where one union’s responsibilities stop and the other’s start, and to make any remedial orders that it sees fit in order to clarify these lines and try to avoid future disputes over the issue.
This isn’t about one union taking positions away from the other. What the unions – and their members – need is greater clarity as to which union is going to be responsible for advancing their interests and dealing with the employer on their behalf.
If you have any questions or concerns, please speak to TVO branch president Gregg Thurlbeck or contact CMG staff rep Keith Maskell at firstname.lastname@example.org.