On June 25, I was in Saint John at a rally with hundreds of supporters who came to help seven radio employees mark the one-year anniversary of their strike against Halifax-based MBS Radio. The “Saint John Seven” are CMG members who are fighting for a living wage, fair working conditions, and support for local radio.
Just a few days before this sad anniversary, the CRTC released information on revenues in the broadcasting industry which showed radio was generally profitable, and the average salary in markets similar to Saint John was $53K. MBS Radio pays his Saint John employees about half that . The seven strikers at Big John FM, K-100 and CFBC are paid on average $28K. Even more striking, the women are paid the lowest.
There is no reason to believe that owner Robert Pace is not making a healthy profit from the stations he owns, not to mention the money he gets from being on high-profile boards. When you realize how much Pace earns just sitting on corporate boards, it makes it even more difficult to understand how he can justify the incredibly low salaries he pays loyal staff who have been on-air celebrities in their community for 20 years.
Sadly, we know the Saint John seven are not the only Canadians locked into this depressing cycle. Every day we hear/see in the news how Canadians work full time, and still struggle to feed their families. Workers in the media are no different. Many of our talented colleagues who work in private radio stations across the country barely eke out a living.
So it is up to us to keep demanding fairness, and to challenge those who would have us believe that this is the way it has to be.
Like many supporters across the country, I am impressed by the courage of the Saint John seven: their courage to take a stand, to speak up for the 99% who have been afraid too long, and to say no to abusive working conditions in a profitable industry. Through their ordeal, they have also taught us about friendship and community and fighting for what’s right.
Gary Stackhouse, CMG president at MBS Saint John said the year has been a difficult one for the everyone. “We had hoped for serious discussions with MBS Radio on improving wages, working conditions and the radio service provided on our public airwaves, that has not happened,” Gary told the crowd. “But we are stronger than when we started a year ago, thanks to the incredible support we’ve gotten from the community in Saint John and across Canada.”
Any many of those supporters sent messages of solidarity:
This strike is for all the right reasons, poor working conditions, poor wages, and a bad employer.
Ron Oldfield President, Saint John District Labour Council
It’s been a long year, but we must never forget that this fight is still about one simple thing — getting a bare living wage for good honest workers. We are not asking for much, just a small raise so that a five-year radio announcer is making more than $11 an hour.
Martin O’Hanlon Director, CWA canada
We know that the fight to secure a first collective agreement is not just about improving your own working conditions. Those who come after you will also benefit from the gains that you achieve. By standing up for your rights, you are helping to advance equality and social justice and to prevent the deterioration of working conditions for all Canadians.
Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Official Opposition, in a statement read at the rally
Join us in supporting our colleagues and fighting to make all media companies fair and decent places to work.