Here is the moment you’ve been waiting for… highlights of the tentative agreement we reached with CBC/Radio-Canada last Friday!
We covered a lot of issues even as we focused on key priorities identified by members during our bargaining survey and by delegates at the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) Convention last spring.
Pay increases and the term of the Collective Agreement
We agreed to a 5-year term with similar wage increase provisions as we had in the last round; 1.5% in 2019, 1.5% in 2020, and increases pegged to the federal Treasury Board rate for wage increases in each of the final 3 years. Our union bargaining committee sought a shorter term, and more pay and other compensation. CBC wanted a longer term and to limit pay increases to what the federal government provides for wage increases, which has hovered just below 1.5% per year on average for the last decade. In other words, we were coming at these key monetary issues from opposite directions.
Our committee argued hard for members to share more of the increase to CBC’s government funding. The Corporation was adamant that this money could not go to wage increases but needed to be spent on boosting programming in other ways. We will continue to advocate for more jobs to produce the increased programming and, in the end, our committee determined that stability in this political and economic climate is more valuable than risking a breakdown of talks over a percentage point on wages, or a year or two on the term of the collective agreement.
Pension and Benefits
Pension and benefits plans at CBC cover all employees, including non-CMG members, and are handled by a joint committee involving all the CBC unions and management – the Consultative Committee on Staff Benefits. All the unions will meet with management this spring to review the 10-year-old agreement on pension surplus sharing and the benefits fund we’ve been contributing to for the last decade. According to that agreement, 2019 is the final year that 0.1% will come off our pay increases to contribute to the benefits fund. There is now a significant sum built up in that fund and our union will seek to use some of that money to improve benefits coverage. As well, the existing agreement on pension surplus sharing should continue.
And we made significant strides on other working conditions.
Temporary employment and precarious work
The tentative agreement includes a commitment to create 41 new permanent jobs upon ratification, through a combination of postings and conversions in employment status for some members currently classified as temporary employees. Some members who are currently serving in temporary positions will have their positions converted into permanent positions.
These new permanent jobs will be distributed across the country and concentrated in news, radio and regional stations. One of them will be a “floater” position in network news in Toronto, a pilot project to see if it works to have a permanent employee assigned to multiple backfills.
In addition, there are new provisions in the tentative agreement: Temporary employee review will now be made an official role for Local Joint Committees to ensure ongoing work is performed by permanent employees. New terms of reference for these committee reviews provide for local solutions that could include positions for multiple backfills or other measures. In terms of easing job conversions from temporary to permanent status, we’ve also clarified in Article 27 that a temporary employee could be reassigned to another position without breaking their 18 months in the same position, as long as their original position still exists as a temporary job when they hit the 18-month mark. And we have a commitment to better onboarding of temporary employees.
After many years of stagnant allowances paid to members who work in Northern and isolated locations, we’ve come to an agreement to increase the allowances to match the 2018-19 rates paid to federal employees in these locations. The higher allowances mean one million dollars in new spending and represent a real commitment by the Corporation to improving working conditions in the North. These are needed increases for members in Northern locations who have been struggling with basic costs like housing and food. This will also help with employee retention, which will help in turn with workload issues.
Both the CMG and the Corporation committed to finding ways to ensure the CBC better reflects the diversity of Canada’s population, without pitting employees against each other. We have added language to Article 1 that enshrines the importance of reflecting the diversity of Canada in all aspects of the workplace. Most of the provisions in the collective agreement have been made more evident, and easier for everyone to locate and use. Nothing in the new agreement undermines seniority.
The new norm for a workweek is 5 days in a row followed by two days off, with some exceptions for people on rotating schedules.
Currently, an employee can be scheduled up to 10 days in a row without being paid overtime. The tentative agreement limits those long runs. This should provide greater stability in scheduling, while ensuring employees have access to premiums for working on their days off.
We also clarified that members be compensated when we are required to do email and other digital work after work hours.
Employees should be reporting all their hours worked. To encourage this, the possibility of having overtime hours approved in advance of an assignment was added to the tentative agreement.
Hours of Work
Permanent, long-term temporary and contract employees will now be covered by an averaging agreement on time worked to ensure compliance with the Canada Labour Code, which limits hours worked in a week to 48. Averaging will allow us to work more than 48 hours in a given week, as long as we don’t work an average of more than 48 hours per week over the six-month averaging period. All the existing scheduling and overtime rules still apply so it’s important to note this is an Hours Averaging agreement, not an Overtime Averaging agreement. This means there is no change to overtime clauses in the collective agreement and those provisions continue to apply.
The tentative agreement is compliant with the new Labour Code provisions so that employees are now eligible for leave up to 18 months after the birth of a child; that extends childcare leave by 26 weeks in addition to the current 35 weeks. Current levels of benefits offered to those on maternity, co-parent, adoption and child care leave will be maintained, regardless of the length of the total leave (this means, regardless of the EI benefits at 33% or 55%).
The new proposed article clarifies the criteria for granting special leave and makes the application process a bit easier. There is also a new accelerated process to resolve disputes if they arise.
Here are some other items in the tentative agreement:
Dispute Resolution – There’s more clarity in the grievance process, and a new accelerated process for the resolution of disputes on Special Leave, Leave Without Pay, Outside Activities, Job Evaluation, and potentially other issues where a quick answer is the only way to ensure justice is not denied.
Complaints Processes (like Respect in the Workplace) – There will be more transparency in the process when someone comes forward with a workplace complaint, and an understanding that all participants in investigations should have a clear option of union representation, including complainants and witnesses.
Out-of-Country Work – For the first time, members will have access to a new program of conditions when we take a CBC/Radio-Canada position outside of Canada under Appendix C of the collective agreement. That new program will also apply to Foreign Correspondents (covered under Article 35). In order to help make the same program available to everyone working outside of Canada, we agreed to reduce the number of additional leave days available to Foreign Correspondents from 15 per year to 10. Our goal in agreeing to this was to ensure equity for everyone who is assigned a foreign posting.
Relocation expenses – There is now a fair and transparent approach to covering the costs of moving when members are asked to relocate within CBC/SRC.
Freelancers – The proposed agreement will provide more clarity to distinguish between the various types of freelance engagements. The CMG will have access to additional contact information for freelancers to improve communication about their rights. As well, we negotiated freelance rate increases in line with the across-the-board wage increases for other members.
Union-Management Joint Committees – will now be allowed up to 4 CMG members per local committee and more clarity on scheduling meetings and union leave.
Use of Personal Devices – the Corporation will not require employees to use our own phones or tablets to perform work. If you need a mobile device to do your job, CBC will provide you with one.
Job Evaluation – We now have a commitment of two meetings per year of the national joint JE committee, an improved dispute resolution process and a commitment that the Corporation will release new job descriptions for seven classifications by July 31, 2019: Reporter-editor, AP, Video Producer, Broadcast Technician, Senior Communications Officer, Senior Designer, Desktop Support Specialist. These positions will then be rated following the job evaluation process, taking into account any new duties and requirements.
Improvement Plans – CBC will be able to resume an Improvement Plan within nine months of the end/suspension of an earlier Improvement Plan, but only in the event the same performance issues persist or recur within the 9 months. As before, if an employee is deemed to have not succeeded after six months in an active Plan, the employee can be reassigned or laid off. It is important that members reach out to a union representative if their manager launches an Improvement Plan.
Credit for Our Work – We’ve updated article 13 to confirm that CBC employees are entitled to credit for their work, on every platform, where it is feasible and reasonable to provide it. CBC should work with Program teams to find a way to credit people regardless of where their work appears.
Maintenance & IT Compensation Review – Upon ratification, the union and management will commission a joint review of the compensation of employees working in Maintenance & IT, as agreed back in 2009, and compare it with what similar workers earn at other employers. If it turns out CBC employees are paid less than market rates, we will work with CBC to try to address the discrepancies. The CMG and CBC have already engaged a firm to complete the study and are currently in the process of drawing up terms of reference.
All members will have the opportunity to vote on the tentative agreement during the last week of March. By the end of next week, a full package of the changes and more detailed explanation will be available to everyone. We will also be holding membership meetings in most locations and will use alternative methods to include those who can’t attend in person. Watch your email for the date and time of the meeting in your location.
And one more thing
If you know a CMG co-worker who did not receive this message directly, please share it with them, and they can click this link to ensure they get follow-up information on the ratification process.
The CMG bargaining committee at CBC: Sujata Berry
Olivier Desharnais-Roy, CMG Staff Representative
Karen Wirsig, CMG Staff Representative