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CMG Elections 2019 – Candidate profile: Jonathan Spence

Our union, for real.

As a long-time activist for the Canadian Media Guild I have been involved in our union at all levels. I have spent the better part of 15 years working hard on the issues that matter to you.

I routinely use that experience and knowledge to get real action on concerns that are vital to our work at CBC/Radio-Canada.

Priorities and Achievements during my 3 years as CBC/Radio-Canada Branch President –

Employment Equity – I have participated directly on the joint union-management committee that promotes diversity and inclusion within CBC/Radio-Canada’s workforce, demonstrating CMG’s commitment to the Corporation meeting mandated equity goals

Pay Equity – Now, pay discrepancies between groups of men and women doing the same job are investigated via the Joint Pay Equity Committee when the gap between the groups is greater than 5%, rather than 10%, the previous threshold. A gap does not need to be as large to warrant further examination. New Pay Equity legislation will allow us to go even further next year and beyond.

Unpacking the Corporation’s Strategic Direction – The Corporate Steering Committee provides a venue for our union and management to discuss CBC/Radio-Canada’s strategic direction. The committee had not met in years until I pushed for a restart at the beginning of my term. This is an important committee that presents a quarterly opportunity for the union to meet with all senior management.

CMG Editorial Board – Organized and populated this body to defend the interests of journalists. Reporting to the Branch Executive Committee, the Board’s mandate is to look at developments affecting our editorial workforce and provide an analysis that will inform our union’s executive and members on the effects of such changes on our work.

Grievance-handling at the national level has been democratized – Elected members now drive the process rather than paid CMG staff representatives.

Fewer Grievances at the National Grievance Committee – We are down from 100 “live” grievances at the national level to fewer than 30. This is a result of strategic decision-making and our work to improve industrial relations, putting the dynamic between management and our union on a more productive footing.

Medical Notes – We are negotiating better protocols for the requirement of medical notes, in an effort to remove automatic requests for notes for short term absences.

New Location Unit for Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo, and London – Organizing this unit has helped us build regional strength.

Branch Executive Committee solidarity – We have held our meetings across the country, in Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Yellowknife and St. John’s. This introduces the BEC to the real working conditions of members we represent.

Improved Approach to Collective Bargaining

During this last round of bargaining we brought our first temporary employee member onto the committee. We also passed a bylaw amendment at the 2018 Convention to have one seat on the bargaining committee designated for an Indigenous member and we fulfilled that goal. We landed a 5-fold better response to our bargaining survey than any previous effort, with almost 1200 members filling out the survey. We also increased the percentage of members that participated in the ratification vote by 50%.

Stronger Advocacy for Temporary Employees and More Permanent Opportunities

In bargaining, we negotiated a pilot project to have multiple back-fill shifts covered by a member who is placed in a permanent position, rather than being engaged as a temporary employee to do so. This pilot sets the groundwork for having temporary work covered by people who are provided permanent positions.

We have enshrined the right to address the employment status of temporary employees in joint union-management committees. Upon ratification of our latest collective agreement, many temporary employees were converted to permanent status, illustrating how the joint process may work going forward.

Improved Northern Allowances – We improved the northern allowances for our members based in the North by $5 million dollars over the next 5 years.

Health Benefits Improvements – I am currently in discussions in connection with the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between CMG, the other CBC/Radio-Canada unions, the Pensioner’s National Association, and the Corporation on pension surplus sharing and health benefits. I’ve been working at the table to improve health benefits for CMG members. Our supplemental health care benefits have not increased in 2 decades. We are hoping to conclude these discussions by the end of 2019.

Learning and Development Committee – I restarted this initiative after years of dormancy to make sure that training and development opportunities are available to our members.

Market Survey of Maintenance and IT classifications – We are enforcing the joint commitment made in 2009 to do a market survey of Maintenance and IT classifications. This survey will be completed in December.

Radio and News Issues Committee – This committee meets with senior news management to discuss sensitive matters. It had previously been an ad hoc committee that did not form part of the CBC Branch committee structure. Now, representation is appointed by our union and the CBC/Radio-Canada Branch is kept informed.

Job Evaluation – After more than 10 years without a review, we have restarted the job evaluation process to review changing jobs at the Corporation, with an eye on potential adjustments to compensation. Our first seven jobs are scheduled to be reviewed for banding in December.

Goals and next steps – 2020 to 2022

  • CBC Freelancers

Members who freelance at CBC should enjoy the same level of protection as other CMG members who are covered by the collective agreement. CBC Freelancers need better supports. I will advocate for the creation of a Freelance Director seat on our CBC/Radio-Canada Branch Executive Committee.

  • Improve the CMG steward system

Building a strong union requires supports in the workplace that are proximate to our members. Trained stewards will also need to understand the new collective agreement. We can secure funding through our international union for a comprehensive steward program.

  • Roll out union education for activists

We need union education focused on the new collective agreement and tools to enforce the terms. Members and activists want to make our case to management when there is a problem. Union education is key to members enforcing the terms of the agreement locally and improving working conditions.

  • National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

The National Standard is an integrated program of supports that addresses employee psychological health. The CBC/Radio-Canada currently has many supports in place toward the Standard, and there is a willingness to build toward it. A gap analysis has been completed already. We will continue to look for ways to realize the full Standard at the Corporation.

  • Champion CBC/Radio-Canada to government and citizens – Increase Public Funding

We will meet with the new Heritage Minister and other elected officials to advocate for continued and increased public funding, with the goal of raising the per capita rate to $50 per Canadian, per year. This would almost double public funding to the Corporation. We will do this in conjunction with the other unions at CBC/Radio-Canada as we have developed strong bonds on matters of mutual interest.

  • Harmonize treatment of members between English and French Services

CMG members are experiencing some significant differences in treatment between the English and French Media management lines. It is important that members feel we are being treated equally and fairly, regardless of our management lines. This must be addressed at our next extended in-person national joint union-management committee meeting.

  • Improve scheduling for those affected by the exclusion of the 5-day work week

I will continue to pressure CBC/Radio-Canada management to improve the well-being of members doing shift work. We can do this via provisions built into the administration of the new collective agreement.

  • Improve the hours averaging regime

Providing more flexibility and a greater number of permissible hours will facilitate more varied assignments. As some members are deemed to work hours in excess of the Labour Code mandated limits, we are challenging how some of these hours are being calculated and revisiting the interpretation of the agreement.

  • Launch a Technical Board, and Administrative Board, following on the CMG Editorial Board

Technical and administrative staff share some specific interests and challenges, and we need to ensure that these voices are heard and inform our Branch executive. Some matters may involve technological change or reorganization of work. These technical and administrative boards would function similarly to the new CMG editorial board, informing decisions and actions taken by our union at CBC/Radio-Canada.

I would welcome your support for another term as President of the CBC/Radio-Canada Branch. This would permit me to continue the initiatives I have undertaken to make the CBC/Radio-Canada Branch a more accessible, forward looking and democratic part of our union. Let’s continue to raise the floor together!

If you are supportive of the direction I’ve outlined, please consider lending a hand during the campaign. I need your help to get

the word out and to be re-elected. If you’d like to help, please email me at

You can also show your support and follow campaign developments here:

Lastly – I am proudly running alongside Kam Rao, Andrea Sellinger, Jordanna Lake and others who support Our Union principles (see FB page above for more information). Together, we share a common vision for CMG.

Jonathan Spence
President, CBC/Radio-Canada Branch, Canadian Media Guild

~ Please vote, Dec 5-9, 2019 ~

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