TVO workers vote to strike amid conflicting claims about the future of their journalism

TVO rejects union allegations that public education broadcaster’s flagship show “The Agenda With Steve Paikin” is in jeopardy after members voted forcefully to strike after years of wage restraint.

The Canadian Media Guild addressed its concerns in part in a recent address letter from Education Minister Stephen Lecce to TVO Chairman Chris Day on the government’s priorities for the network this year and next. The correspondence dated January 23 does not mention current affairs programming or journalism.

“I’m reading between the lines,” Meredith Martin, a journalist and president of the Canadian Media Guild branch at TVO, said Tuesday after the strike was announced.

The union issued a statement saying that “TVO appears to be positioning itself to abandon journalism at a critical time for quality and reliable information.”

But TVO said that’s not true.

“It is highly misleading and simply wrong to suggest that TVO has reduced (or plans to reduce) its commitment to journalism,” Vice President Julia Vrabec said in a statement.

“That commitment has grown dramatically in recent years, including new podcasts, video series, live events, new beats, ‘The Thread with Nam Kiwanuka,’ among other initiatives, and is clearly embedded into our strategic plan,” he added.

“In addition, we continue to give our full commitment to ‘The Agenda with Steve Paikin’ and our award-winning documentaries. As is appropriate in situations like this, we will limit our future comments to the negotiating table.”

The Lecce office declined to comment.

The union said 96 percent of employees represented by the Canadian Media Guild voted to strike if necessary while the union negotiates a new contract. Negotiations are continuing and no strike date has been set.

The vote follows “below-inflation wage increases over the past 10 years,” the union said, and wages that are “below the industry standard.”

Legislation by Prime Minister Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has limited annual wage increases for most public sector workers to one percent in recent years.

However, that legislation, Bill 124, was declared unconstitutional late last year. The government is challenging that court decision.

Martin said that TVO should do more to raise funds from viewers and other donors by using its airwaves to do regular cash drops.

“Our philanthropy department has not been able to increase the amount of money we receive through donations,” he added.

“I personally wonder why we don’t ask the public more directly more often. I don’t know why there isn’t a question on every episode of ‘The Agenda’ that says ‘if you value this programming, donate to TVO’.”

Lecce’s instruction letter said that TVO, officially known as the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, should “support a more coordinated and robust provincial e-learning system that allows students to access high-quality e-learning courses.” taught by teachers.

The union’s most recent contract expired in October.


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