Nose pressed to glass

Monday, August 29, 2005

Kill the king!

To all the managers I've loved before (and those I've yet to meet):

My Friends on the Inside, you may feel tired, overwhelmed, even powerless. But you are not. Far from it, you may be the best chance any of us have of making this nightmare end.

The ideological gulf between the union and your boss is so vast and deep that no hope of a settlement seems possible at the moment -- if nothing changes. So something has to change.

What I'm asking you to do, simply, is to kill the king.

Oh, I'm not asking you to actually physically harm Richard Stursberg, or anyone else foaming at the mouth over the number of staff employees. Such an act would be contrary to the Criminal Code, a bad-faith labour practice and downright rude.

Nor am I asking you to quit, join us on the line or do something that will get you fired. After all, I wouldn't do those things if I were in your Pumas. What I would do, and what you should do starting this very second, is to quietly undermine the bossman. Now why should you do that?

Well, the king is mad. He's a crusader with an agenda hidden deep inside his bodkin. He can't explain the main reason we're out -- why CBC should have a significantly higher number of contract employers than its competitors -- so he has no clothes.

You are serving a mad, nude king.

And every day we're out here staring in at you doing our jobs, sort of, the corporation is becoming a little less recognizable, a little more broken, a little more (permanently?) diminished.

CBCers, those slightly odd articulate types, are listening, watching and reading elsewhere. CBC haters, and there are many, are having Christmas in August. Are you reading the papers?

So what to do? Well, don't be so managerial. Don't go the extra mile. Do your job but leave after eight hours. I know the overtime is tempting but you know the money doesn't really belong to you. You're doing a job that nobody, except the mad, nude king and his hypnotized servants, wants you to do.

Most importantly, in subtle ways, tell the king he is mad and nude. Go to the pep talks but instead of nodding your head or trading tips on sneaking in and out of the building, ask some tough questions.

Why do we need so many contract workers? Don't CTV and Global do just fine with a primarily staff workforce? Why do you continue to tell the public only 5% of CBC staff are on contract when you know it's a blatanly misleading technicality? If we're on the side of right, why don't those on-air apologies use the word "lockout" instead of labour disruption? If you have to be nude, can you at least do some crunches once in a while?

You get Groupwise every day. Send some of it to the union. Send some of it to me. Expose the truth. Mount a palace coup.

If you managers don't go the extra kilometre, the on-air product will deteriorate even further, advertisers will demand their money back, other CBC profit centres will suffer.

Stursberg will face some very tough questions from the board of directors and be pressured to compromise on the contract issue. They and you can end this. It'll be painful to watch but, I think, mercifully quick compared to the assisted asphyxiation we're witnessing today.

Start now. Kill the king.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Girding for battle once again

Week 3 begins. Sound the battle horn. Dig your old Che Guevara T out of the back of the CRV and re-join the latte revolution.

All that to say picketing is weird for a few reasons. Teachers are used to it while steelworkers and the like have it down to a science. I know CBC techs have experience with it but most of the people on the line still look bemused, gobsmacked and horrified, all at the same time.

Some will show up but they won't walk and/or carry a sign. I don't know if Strombo walked but he doesn't do signs. Maybe if we make a black one for him? (Would they sell them in the CBC Shop after we go back in?)

We're mostly a middle or upper-middle class bunch with a high ratio of hipsters and wannabes. We like The Arcade Fire, not The Internationale. We get excited when frappuccinos go on sale.

Aside from the too-cool-for-school factor, there's a good reason many of us feel weird and uncomfortable. Journalism is, usually, all about observing and here we are as the story. We're also taught to keep our opinions to ourselves lest we open ourselves to accusations of bias. By marching we've obviously come down on one side. I don't have too much of a problem with that and, frankly, I need the strike pay.

Where it gets really gooey is when someone like Jack Layton shows up and we're all supposed to clap at the right places. But journalists usually don't clap. We look at our MD recorders, scribble and make faces at each other when the guy says something notable or just stupid.

Even worse, all those people going to Queen's Park to support the Hydro workers. If you're a CBCer who's not a journalist, fine. But the rest of us might be back inside and reporting on that conflict in a week (OK, call me Pollyanna) or producing an item about it. But I'm a little conflicted because I am grateful for other unions' support. I also welcome Jack or any diversion on the line that means I can stop walking for a bit.

For the same reason, I don't think I can do the Labour Day parade even though it would mean a bonus 4 hours of picket duty. Well, I could watch but I couldn't march at the front of the parade. It's not because I'm too cool -- it just goes against years of training. Maybe I'll get over it and get all Fox News and biased on everybody's ass.

Some other random observations:

Has anyone else noticed that really tall security guy? He's balding but has it slicked back in the front and then a mullet in the back. He wears polo shirts and stands at Wellington and does the Secret Service watchful stare like he's guarding Hugo Chavez at a Republican fundraiser. I'm guessing he's a boss. He looks pretty tightly wound. What makes a guy like that tick? I bet he has no time for frappuccinos.

I don't have a problem with dogs on leashes on the line. The local newsletter was a bit over the top with its photos and dire warnings of disaster should a child or a pet find its way into the Long March. If you bring a friendly dog, I'll pet it and we both win. Better yet, bring your cat and let it lead you. It will take you a full eight-hour shift to get around the building. That tall security dude will give you a very mean look.

Robin asked about my reference in the previous post to Jane Chalmers as Robin in a shag to Stursberg's dark knight. It was a Batman reference. I just meant that she seems to be Stursberg's sidekick and not the prime mover in this whole mess.

Some of the reputed manager's blogs talk about a big announcement coming that has nothing to do with bargaining. My gut is it has to be a manangement attempt to put on a version of The National. I'll be sad if they manage it but we've already benefitted from all the lumps columnists have meted out over the Antiques Roadshows reruns, etc., so it's no big deal. How Stursberg failed to get a team together to provide better alternate programming, with all the lead-up time and all the resources at his disposal, is a very interesting question. I'll pop it out if we have a Q and A after the fall launch announcement.

And, finally, speaking of Our Friends Inside, the maybe-manager's blog by Ouimet has a factual error, so maybe she really is a manager. She says of the crowd's inhospitable behaviour when Richard Stursberg bizarrely tried to melt into the mob during a Buzz Hargrove speech: "... next time we send out our old fat guy to talk to your old fat guy, let them hash it out."

In fact, our old bald guy asked your old bald guy to debate. The crowd would have welcomed, nay, loved it. We didn't stop them from hashing it out. Your guy did by turning and running like a rat going down a hole. So when you stop by to pick up your overtime cheque, ask him to try again.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Nose Pressed To Glass

Yet another locked-out CBC worker's blog. But mine's better.

OK, a throwaway boast I now have to try to live up. But my feet are tired! I smell like sunscreen! I discovered I have a serious dust alergy while rooting through the couch for spare change! And suddenly I'm addicted to exclamation marks!

About me:

A Toronto-based journalist who, like most of my colleagues, has serious issues with both the union and management.

The union now wants to call all of us brother and sister even though it has, for years, treated casuals and contracts like shit in favour of the golden staffers. They've let managers (and staffers) similarly use and abuse the non-perms for years. They let it become accepted wisdom that you can a do a job, or jobs, well for years but not deserve any security. Now, Arnold and the gang are born-again defenders of the grey-zone worker. In case you're now wondering if I'm a management plant, read on.

Management is, at the top, a morally bankrupt band of despoilers and debasers. It sounds like hyperbole but I think Richard Stursberg truly is a zealot with a master plan (about transforming TV with contract drones) that he won't reveal to staff or the public. This is all about TV -- radio and online are just incidental roadkill.

Jane Chalmers seems like Robin in a shag to Stursberg's dark knight. Radio is doing, everyone agrees, great. People in big cities are listening to earnest debates about social programs and gun control instead of the morning asylum over on the rock station. It seems too good to be true. So why change radically? And why risk the long-fought-for gains with a lockout? She isn't saying because, in her heart, she doesn't know.

Sue Gardner from online just seems ambitious. Did you listen to her audio file about getting rid of deadwood? Her voice is sort of creepily hypnotic. But if Stursberg keeled over tomorrow and was replaced by a new bossman preaching skateboarding instead of contracting, I bet she'd be up all night practising kickflips and then turn up for work wearing Vans.

Robert Rabinovitch. Who?

So I have to side with the union as the lesser evil. Management can't actually explain why an almost all-contract workforce is "vital to the survival of the CBC" as that Jason McMouthpiece guy is spouting to any reporter who will listen. It's just PR hokum hiding a master plan wrapped inside a Juicy Fruit wrapper.

They've kicked us out of the house, taken away the car keys and it will never be the same when we finally go back home. But being locked out sucks so I hope something happens soon. Tod Maffin is right - both sides should start talking for real. Workers won't take union fussiness for too much longer. And management should bargain with good faith, not rigid voodoo ideology.

Finally, a little positivity. Huge props and mad love to Joe Schlesinger and Brian Stewart who were walking the line Friday afternoon. Seeing Brian with his limp and Joe with his silver hair and stiff gait warmed my heart. Some of us have to do it for the strike pay. These guys have nothing to prove and nothing to gain. Brian was on Oprah, for God's sakes. But there they were trudging along, wearing signs and no doubt feeling weird and dorky like the rest of us.

Thanks, gents.