Canadian music legend turned radio host Randy Bachman has made a career takin' care of business - only now he's being excoriated for doing it during the eight-week CBC lockout.
The finger-pointing started three weeks ago when Bachman dedicated the September 10 episode of his CBC Radio show Vinyl Tap to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The problem was that the storm ripped through Louisiana on August 29, two weeks after CBC management locked out 5,500 of its employees. This could mean only one thing: that Bachman was recording new shows in the middle of a divisive lockout.
News of the "scabbing" spread rapidly through picket lines across the country, and many felt betrayed by the Winnipeg-born rocker.
"There's no doubt about it," says Karen Wirsig, spokesperson for the Canadian Media Guild, "he's a replacement worker who [was] doing struck work. He is crossing a virtual picket line every time he sends in that MP3 of his show over the Internet."
Much of the controversy seems to stem from the unique nature of Bachman's show, which began its 10-week run in July.
Vinyl Tap, which features Bachman spinning records and stories from his four-decade career, is recorded in his home studio on BC's Salt Spring Island, far from the picket lines.
According to Bachman's publicist, Suzanne Little, when the CBC offered on August 9 to extend Vinyl Tap's contract until the end of September, he willingly accepted.
"By discussing doing more shows with them, he was not in any way intending to engage in a stance in their labour dispute," says Little. "He believed, based on his discussions with management, that he was honouring his obligation to deliver these additional shows."
But this placed Bachman, who is in the CMG database as a dues-paying freelance member, in the unenviable position of strikebreaker.
Little explains that Bachman was eager to extend the life of Vinyl Tap past its summer-replacement status but was unaware of the labour implications.
But other CBC shows, like Air Farce and The Rick Mercer Report, decided against taping new shows, in part because it would require crossing picket lines outside the Canadian Broadcasting Centre.
Caught on tour with Guess Who bandmate Burton Cummings, Bachman sent a brief reply (via Blackberry) to a request for an interview:
"I initially had a summer contract for Vinyl Tap for 10 shows, which CBC extended for September. I am not currently taping any new shows for the CBC. Repeats will start in October."
The CBC meanwhile defended its contract extension (which was formalized five days before the lockout), and maintained that Vinyl Tap was an independent production that falls outside the union's collective agreement.
"The contract was in place well before the labour dispute began," CBC spokesperson Jason MacDonald says. "They can call Mr. Bachman what they like, but to say he's a scab or doing replacement work is unfair."