Use it or lose it

It’s a showdown and CBC look like they could lose.

SHORTLY before the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) locked out 5,300 of its 9,000 employees on August 15th, Michele Sparling, the management’s chief negotiator, declared: “This is the hill we will die on.â€? Seven weeks later, those words look ominous. Many of CBC’s most familiar faces are on the picket line. Managers have had to fill the schedules with many inept stand-ins. Some in the media industry reckon that after the dispute ends, Canada’s public-service broadcaster may be badly diminished or even doomed.

The lockout followed 15 months of talks on a new agreement between CBC and the Canadian Media Guild, a merger of three unions. The dispute centres on the management’s desire to put more workers on temporary contracts, to give it the flexibility it says it needs to tackle multi-channel broadcasting, satellite radio and podcasting. The guild’s response is that 30% of CBC’s workforce are temps already, a higher percentage than at commercial rivals, and that the corporation needs a permanent creative core.