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.
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.