Employees at hipster station Toronto 1, less than two years after its much publicized, and hyped, launch, have turned to the Canadian Media Guild to help form a union.
Long hours, unpaid overtime, high turnover and favouritism shown by management to some on-air personalities are among the issues brought to the Guild by disgruntled employees. According to Lise Lareau, president of the Guild, some on-air employees make up to $20,000 more a year than others “for no apparent reason.”
But the spectre of imminent changes for a station struggling to find its niche seems to be what’s unsettling employees most.
“There’s this new owner who has said to them point blank, “We don’t know what the station is going to look like in September, but it’s going to look different, and we don’t know if you’re all going to be with us then,” says Lareau.
The Guild applied to certify 86 on-air, technical and creative services employees. A former producer who quit the station in January says he often had to endure 13-hour days because there weren’t enough crew members to work on the shows.
“It was pretty thankless,” he says.
Luc Lavoie, executive vice-president of corporate affairs at Quebecor Media Inc., which bought the money-losing station from CHUM for $46 million last August, says Quebecor will play it cool if employees want to form a union.
“All the words that are being said of us during the process of forming a union I’ve got to take with a certain level of skepticism,” he says. “It’s pretty much part of the game. We know what the process is and we’ll be respecting the laws we treat all our employees in the correct way.” But Quebecor hasn’t always been friendly to unions. It took three years for workers at the Sun to get one off the ground.
If Toronto 1’s application is approved by the Canada Industrial Relations Board, it will be the only major GTA-based broadcaster besides the CBC to unionize.