At the end of February, S-VOX – owner of VisionTV along with a couple of other smaller specialty TV channels – issued redundancy letters to nine people as part of a “re-structuring”. In the current economic climate, it’s not particularly surprising. Re-structuring to increase efficiency and save money is not necessarily a bad idea, but it has to be done carefully, and always according to the rules.
We understand that many jobs tend to change over time. Sometimes it’s because new technology has come along, and sometimes the employer’s needs change, but everyone has to deal with changes to their work at some point. Many employers realize that when there’s a shift, they bear at least some of the responsibility for helping their employees adapt to the changes, in order to help them remain productive and satisfied with their jobs. Some employers, though, take a different approach. They seem to believe that existing employees don’t have what it takes to learn new skills or improve the skills they have. Rather than improving the employees they have, they prefer to get rid of everyone and start from scratch.
That’s what’s happened to video editors and promo producers at S-VOX. The company wants to create new jobs, called “preditors” – can’t someone please come up with a better name? – that blend the skill sets of the two previously existing groups. The objective is simple: have one person do the work instead of two. But rather than assessing the skills and abilities of the existing employees, and then offering both groups the necessary training to function in this new role, the company issued layoff notices to all of them, and is “inviting” people to apply for the new positions. Only people who are already qualified (from the company’s point of view) to do the job will be hired. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for the company, or how skilled and capable you are; S-VOX wants to be able to hire whomever it wants, even if that means bringing in brand-new people from outside.
Involuntary layoffs are always unfortunate, but unnecessary layoffs are just cruel. At a time when the economy is at such a low ebb, what S-VOX is doing is simply unconscionable. To us at the Guild, not only is this an egregious violation of the collective agreement, it’s a slap in the face to everyone who works at S-VOX. It’s a significant step backwards in a relationship that until now has been quite positive, and we think senior management of this “faith-based” organization should be ashamed of themselves for forgetting their mission to “bring hope, inspiration and joy to people’s lives”.
Keith Maskell is a Staff Representative at the CMG.