Radio-Canada staff walks out

Union rejects 'final offer' from management

TORONTO — Newsroom staffers at Radio-Canada, the Quebec-based CBC TV and radio networks, walked off the job at midnight Thursday after their union rejected a “final offer” from management.

Talks between Radio-Canada and representatives of the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (SCRC) broke down Wednesday. At issue are long-standing disagreements over salary, job security and pay equity.

‘Equality problem’

“There is a huge equality problem at Radio-Canada,” SCRC president Michel Couturier told Daily Variety, “between men and women, between Quebec and Ontario, and between Montreal and the regions.”

Management’s offer included a lump sum payment of C$700 ($443), and wage increases of 3% for 2002 and 2% for 2003. The offer expired midnight Thursday.

The work stoppage is affecting radio and news programming produced in Quebec and in Moncton, New Brunswick, with music filling in on the radio and on the tube, with regional journos contracted to the pubcaster’s English-language division supplying short bulletins. The popular Saturday night program “Hockey Night in Canada” was to be shown without commentary.

Marc Sevigny, general manager of communications for CBC French Television, noted that if the strike is on at playoff time, skedded for the second week of April, “it’s going to be even more complicated.”

Couturier said the walkout was intended as a 24-hour shot over management’s bow, but Radio-Canada management is not accepting that.

‘It’s a strike’

“There’s no such thing as a 24-hour walkout,” Sevigny said. “The (labor code) doesn’t recognize anything like that, and for us, it’s a strike.”

Management had threatened to lock out employees if they left the job.

The SCRC represents about 1,500 people on the air and in production at Radio-Canada.

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