CBC and CMG reach a tentative deal.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Media Guild have reached an agreement in principle to end the current lockout. I'm not going to recycle news from around the Web, but Tod Maffin of CBCunplugged interviewed one of the CMG's lead negotiators and asked if anyone could produce a transcript of the interview. Without any further ado:

Tod Maffin: This is a special edition of CBCunplugged.com, it is late at night on Sunday -- I guess now currently Monday, October the 3rd -- and on the line is Arnold Amber, with the CMG negotiating team. Arnold, you must be exhausted.

Arnold Amber: Sure am. Yesterday, we worked right through until 6AM Sunday morning, were back at it already back across the river in Gatineau at noon, and we finished up now, and I'm just getting back to the Hotel and it's 2 o'clock in the morning. So, a long and hard struggle; many many months.

TM: What comes next; what are the next steps? I know that it is an agreement in principle, so presumably there is still some language text to work out.

AA: First of all, the ceremony: We go back to the mediation services of the Canadian government offices in Gatineau Quebec tomorrow morning; 9:30 we meet with the labour minister under whose auspices the talks these last seven days went on; we then will sign an agreement, a memorandum of agreement; and then we work out perhaps one of the most important things we're going to do over the next little while, and that is the Return To Work protocol -- these are the terms and conditions by which all our members will be reintegrated into the CBC -- and finally, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio, television, and dot-ca will finally be able to restore the services that Canadians have used so widely and of which we heard so much about over the lockout about how much they miss.

TM: What pushed the final moment? Did the guild make an offer, did the labour ministry intervene; what point was the actual tipping point in this tonight?

AA: In my view there were two tipping points. One of them occurred Mon- uh, Wed- uh, sorry, Saturday morning. Saturday morning, when one of the mediators, Don Howard (?), stood up in a meeting, two representatives of the Guild, me and Dan Olsen from the Guild, and two representatives from the CBC and two mediators, him and Elizabeth MacPherson, the head of the mediation services, and he suggested a way that we could overcome two or three issues that still stood out, and drew some things on the board, and from that we rapidly developed a mechanism for moving forward, and although Saturday turned out to be a long hard day, that was the first of many tipping points.

AA: The second point was, there's something that I -- you know, I'm one of the "veteran" if I may put it in slight terms, negotiators with the CBC, in other words, I've done many many years -- but talking to some of the younger folks on this negotiating team, I said "you know, you'll find it very surprising, but until someone says 'yes' across the table, they often say 'no' very loudly and insistently". All the way up until 8:30, 9 o'clock on Sunday, the CBC was holding firm to various things and acting in a very certain way; and finally we exchanged paper. The CBC submitted a list of what it called the "outstanding issues" in the dispute and their positions about them, and they asked us to do the same; and Dan Olsen and I got together and wrote up our paper and submitted it to the CBC, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 9 o'clock. They came back a little after 11, and their response to our paper was very positive. There were two more passes between parties to finally work out all the agreements, and then by about 12:20 Monday morning that was that.

TM: Awesome. Well, I know you're exhausted; I'll let you get some sleep and I really appreciate your time.

AA: Before I do go, I just really think that I have to say two things. The first thing is that this particular dispute has ended now, and what it established beyond a shadow of a doubt is that at the CBC, public broadcasting and Canada's national broadcaster, the Guild has been able to reassert the notion in contract language that a permanent workforce is the heartthrob of the corporation. We have a cap now on the percentage of contract workers that the CBC will be allowed to bring in at 9.5 of the permanent workforce.

AA: The second thing I want to do is say that, to all our members who throughout this lockout worked so hard to get the public involved, to get politicians involved, to created as well incredible imaginative websites, this is a new modern age labour dispute that our members carried out to the fullest. Many people had a great time on the line and did some of the most imaginative and thoughtful things, and it became a work of art, this labour dispute. I thank that all the people for their support, their activity, and we couldn't have gotten at the table what we did without all that help, so I want to thank all of them.

TM: Arnold, what city do you live in, out of curiosity?

AA: I live right now in Toronto.

TM: And when do you think you'll be getting back?

AA: Oh, I think I'll be getting back tomorrow some time. I have a religious holiday on Tuesday, so I'm going to be paying attention to that for once -- it's a burden which has been lifted from our shoulders.

TM: I'll bet. And any idea when a ratification vote will happen?

AA: We have to develop the language which goes with the principles which we've developed, and from there we'll be setting our schedule tomorrow some time.

TM: So, do people still remain picketing until the vote has gone through, or is that still all up in the air?

AA: Yes, they continue picketing for a number of reasons. One of them is that until they're asked to return to work, we're still sort of in this conflict with the CBC, although it's not real. It's going to be funny to say to them to relax the picket lines, because in many cases, in many cities, the picket lines were more like happenings. In Toronto, where I spent some of the time, because we were negotiating down there for quite a while, the picket line was basically a series of marching about but there were concerts, there were Yoga sessions, there were bake-offs, just as there were across the country; but anyways, we're going to tell them to be even more relaxed picketing over the next couple of days.

TM: Well, I can hear in your voice that you're exhausted, you have a number of days before you, and I really do appreciate your time Mr. Amber.

AA: Thank you very much.

TM: Thank you for talking to me.

AA: Goodbye.

TM: Goodbye.

Note: I cleaned up the interview slightly by removing non-words and mis-spoken words which were immediately corrected, and by correcting some grammar. In Arnold Amber's third paragraph, some of the words and especially names were hard to hear, so I may have gotten them wrong -- I apologize in advance to anyone whose name I transcribed or spelt incorrectly.

Posted at 2005-10-03 09:00 | Permanent link | Comments
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