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Update: Union details job cuts at CHBC

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 | 5:15 pm

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Update: 5:14 p.m.

By Kathy Michaels

Surviving closure hasn’t amounted to job security at CHBC. This afternoon the company delivered layoff notices to 10 employees, attributing the cuts to a change in venue for their master control unit.

But this last spate of lay-offs go deeper than that, explained Jim Failes, president of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers union local 823-M. Viewers will soon notice that Okanagan Now’s Sandy Dawson will no longer be employed by the station and reporter Tim Peeling is also among the lay-offs, though Failes would not confirm the latter change.

“Master control is being centralized in Calgary, this is already true for all of the Global stations across the country and we are merely joining the parade as it were.” said Failes. ”But the other six layoffs —if we temporarily ignore one non-bargaining unit position — are related to reductions in news and community related programming.”

Last spring the station was broadcasting 22.5 hours of local coverage, but those hours were reduced when the CRTC changed the conditions in CHBC’s one-year license renewal, requiring only seven hours of local programming.

“We are going to be doing more than that clearly, but when you go from 22.5 hours to 13, it’s pretty clear that layoffs will come at one point or another,” he said. “But if you’re one of those people who ends up getting that letter, called into the office and being told that your job is not there anymore —that’s always a surprise.”

For the time being, Failes said the company has given assurances that there will be no further staffing reductions, though that could change.

“We only have a one-year license and it will be re-assessed next year. By that time the CRTC may have new requirements,” he said. “But we were told today that we should not expect that there will be further reductions. This is the staff needed to do the programming we need to do.”

It’s been a tumultuous year for the station’s employees. They’ve been dealing with potential closure for the better part of a year and those who are there today survived an earlier cut that saw 22 employees losing their jobs.

“The employees —with the sword hanging over their heads and the parent company in dire financial straights —have really pulled together to put out the best programming they can muster,” said Failes.

The station now has 43 employees, and Failes pointed out those named in today’s layoffs could change once issues like bumping rights are worked into the equation.

1:24 p.m.

By Kathy Michaels

CHBC managed to stay on the air, but there are new casualties to its survival as  more layoffs have been announced at the station. While an exact number is unavailable,  it’s believed that 10 employees  received their walking papers.

CHBC’s Joy Winterlik said that layoff notices went out earlier today.

“There have been some layoffs to do with technical changes with our master control,” she said. “Our master control will be moving to Calgary, and that’s the major portion of layoffs.”

Information released later in the day noted that two on-air personalities will also be let go.

Winterlik stressed that the station will be focusing on their three newscasts, which broadcast 13 hours of local news seven days a week — a significant decline from the 20 hours a week that the station pumped out before the summer.  It’s not the first time the station’s staff has contracted. Last year 22 employees received pink slips, and many of those layoffs were attributed to behind the scenes changes.

And for the better part of a year, CHBC battled against a threat of closure as the station’s parent company, Canwest, attempted to come back from a bottom line deeply marked in the red. Months later, Canwest listed CHBC  among five conventional E! Network television stations that were up for sale, and Canwest management said if they weren’t sold by Aug. 31 the stations would be closed.

It appeared that CHBC would skirt further damage when it convinced Canwest executives that to keep the station and rebrand it as Global Okanagan.

Those changes took effect Sept. 1.

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2 Responses to “Update: Union details job cuts at CHBC”

  1. Fred says:
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    Global Okanagan, at least they’re no longer pretending to
    be a serious part of our community. Its sad that global got control of a very good station and basically destroyed
    it. I remember as a kid watching this channel when it was
    a real part of the community and was respected as such.
    Today it is only a money machine for the parent company and
    the needs of the people, the viewers, well they count for
    nothing anymore. I don’t watch the channel very often who
    could take an E channel seriously anyway. No I now watch
    CTV out of Vancouver. Fire coverage was actually better
    than CHBC.

  2. Mel Wilde says:
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    I find it very sad that local news is the victim of all that has happened. I started watching back in 1972 and have been delighted by years of news about our community.
    I do acknowledge that it is hard to live down the legacy of years under the CBC banner. The ripple effects from that terribly managed organization will be felt across our country for years to come.
    When folks tuned out because of the CBC banner most never came back. It would take a paradigm shift to change today’s
    viewing behavior.

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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