CMG launches union drive at Vice Canada

Young media workers have no problem understanding the benefits of unionization, say the organizers behind Vice Canada’s union drive.

“Precarity of labour is a fact for most young people,” says Tannara Yelland, a former Vice employee who is currently working as a temporary organizer with the Canadian Media Guild.

“When you work in media, even if you have a permanent full time staff job – which is fairly rare – you still know that you are in an industry that is itself precarious. I think young people are starting to think more about what they can do to improve their work conditions. And there’s a wider awareness now that unions are a good way to do that.”

The CMG (which is the union that funds this blog) has been working with a group of Vice employees for several weeks, helping them take steps towards unionization. On Tuesday, the CMG announced the campaign in a post on their website.

Yelland says the idea of unionizing has mostly been met with enthusiasm by Vice employees.

“For the most part everybody who’s been part of the union effort really enjoys their job and really likes working at Vice,” she says. “But there are always things that can be improved and organizing just allows us to have more of a say in how those things are improved.”

Salaries and benefits are among the areas that need improvement, she says, as well as protections for contract workers.

Yelland says she has heard a few concerns about unionization from some Vice employees but says that many of them stem from a lack of understanding about the process.

“There’s a concern that if we voted to unionize we would immediately end up with a contract that had very strict rules about pay or about job roles,” she says. “But bargaining for a collective agreement starts from scratch, so a lot of people’s fears are allayed as soon as they learn more about it.”

CMG organizer Karen Wirsig agrees that much of the negative perception of unionization is caused by a lack of information.

“There’s this sense that a union will impose crazy rules that don’t make sense for the work and will cramp people’s style. But any rules that are negotiated under a union are going to be negotiated freely based on what people’s priorities are and the kind of work that’s being done,” she says.

“We’re just looking to put some standards in place. Hopefully we can put in some measures to ensure sustainable growth for Vice over the long term.”

Contract employees are being included in discussions about the union drive. And both Yelland and Wirsig say that working conditions for freelancers are on the minds of Vice employees, as well.

“If the employees choose to form a union we’d also like to see discussions extend to all the kinds of work that are done for Vice and make sure that it’s fair. Using contracts with freelancers and things like that,” says Wirsig.

She says the group working to unionize at Vice understands the challenges that freelancers face.

“What I love about this group is that people get the different ways work is now done in our industry. And they care about all of their colleagues working in the industry. The people we’ve talked to really do care about people who are freelancing and people working on contracts as well as people with full-time permanent jobs,” she says.

Both Yelland and Wirsig say they’ve heard from a number of freelancers since news about the union drive went public.

“They’ve been getting in touch saying ‘what do you think this will mean for freelancers?'” says Wirsig.

“There are high expectations, I think, on unions — and on organizations — to treat freelancers better.”

Yelland says the group leading the unionization process is hoping to have their application ready to send to the labour board sometime in January.



Posted on December 18, 2015 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

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