Wednesday, August 24, 2005

CBC workers launch new careers

Last night I attended a hastily thrown together and highly successful fundraiser at Ottawa's National Library for the locked-out CBC workers.

It was an odd feeling for an old trade unionist, seeing those who had interviewed us in the past mixing and mingling with us as just plain folks. When Rita Celli talked to me on LeBreton Flats a few years back (2001 PSAC strike), she was every inch a reporter doing her job, asking the tough questions; and I was on the public record, knowing it, and trying to be careful and succinct in my choice of words. Hardly an ideal human exchange. But there she was on-stage last evening, leading a rousing chorus to the tune of "When I’m Sixty-Four," with Bob Carty and a supportive young contract worker on guitars, and solid back-up vocals from other CBC folks:

When it gets colder
Snow in the air
Will you let me in?
Will you still be talking "flexibility"?
Losing ratings for CBC?

If I work part-time
Maybe for free
Would you love me more?
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
Or show me out the door?

When I get older
Still working here
You'll never make me rich
Watching as you take my pension benefits
Thank you kindly, Rabinovitch

You lost the Olympics
Screwed local news
Curlers hate you, too
Do you start talking
Do we keep walking
Or flush it down the loo?

It was her genuine and very human outrage that really impressed me, though. She spoke of the lies currently being told on air by CBC management: calling this a "work stoppage," or a "labour dispute," when the workers have been locked out. Re-running Michael Enright and Shelagh Rogers, giving the impression that they're still on the job when they're actually outside on the picket line.

The evening featured a high-energy benefit by the magnificent Cultural Heritage Choir, who stayed on after the Ottawa Folk Festival to make common cause. It was a packed house, a pile of money was raised for the workers, and a good time was had by all.

But it may be a long road ahead, and as one of the Choir noted, "You'll get tired. You just have to keep going." Market share is diminishing, and with much more of this the CBC may never recover. Could that be the plan? After all, the CBC has been undergoing a slow throttling for years by successive Liberal governments. Is the coup de grâce coming--to cripple MotherCorp and sell it off in a firesale?

If you support our CBC, if you're tired of the funding squeeze, tired of the CBC drought, tired of seeing your money spent on expensive full-page ads from CBC managers flush with high salaries and bonuses, and tired of their attempts to replace a team of loyal, dedicated, long-term employees with a contingent workforce, stand up and do something. Show up on the picket lines. Write your MP, and write the CBC Board to let them know what you think of their frontal assault on a Canadian institution and its locked-out workers:

Let's not wait for the album to come out.

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