Monday, February 26, 2007

Unionized anchors impede change at Here & Now

In the comments section of the ‘CBC Here & Now could use a makeover’ post below, someone asked why there is so little turnover of hosts on the program. A good question, and one that merits an answer.

You will note that I suggested moving people around. That’s for good reason, since the union does indeed make it difficult – close to impossible – to make changes at the all-important anchor level.

As things are, the anchors cannot be ‘let go’ or demoted without cause. If the brass decides that change is necessary, they have to reassign the anchor to another role within the organization. However, he or she would retain full host salary, which is substantially higher than a reporter’s salary. This would distort the economics of the operation and blow the operating budget.

From what I understand, the union could not oppose the reassignment, but they would certainly watch closely to ensure that there is no loss of benefits or reduction in salary.

In a nutshell, you couldn’t freshen up the show as I described in my earlier post without the consent of the hosts. Nonetheless, my suggestions are still possible because I am suggesting lateral moves into other equally challenging, high profile positions.

The host position can be critical to the success or failure of any show, and the notion that you can’t change it as necessary is ridiculous. In an ideal world, any new appointments to such positions should be on contract. CBC does have the option of hiring on contract, a right they fought to uphold in the strike/lockout of 2005. However, the number of people who can be hired on contract is capped at 9.5 per cent of the full-time work force. I really don’t know if that is enough to address this problem.

The ideal solution is to permit reporters to accept anchor positions under contract – meaning it could end at any time – but allow them to return to reporting with full seniority and benefits, if and when the contract expires. The anchor role should be viewed as a temporary gig; fun while it lasts but not a position in which you are likely to retire.

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