CBC locks out 5,500 employees

Broadcaster’s desire for more short-term contract workers at centre of labour dispute

When Canadians woke up Monday morning, the country’s public radio and television broadcaster looked and sounded very different.

Toronto radio morning show favourite Andy Barry was nowhere to be heard and television anchorman Peter Mansbridge won’t be seen on The National as long as the CBC's lockout of 5,500 union employees continues.

The lockout started at 12:01 a.m. Monday after contract talks broke down late Sunday night.

For the first time producers, technicians, support staff and journalists are covered by the same union: the Canadian Media Guild (CMG).

During the lockout, managers and the 10 per cent of the workforce who aren’t unionized will take the place of locked out workers, including on-air personalities. As a stop-gap measure, reruns will fill-up airtime that can’t be filled with original programming.

CBC workers have been without a contract for more than a year. The main sticking point in negotiations is the broadcaster’s desire for more flexibility to hire workers on a short-term contract basis.

The union says that 30 per cent of CBC's current staff are contract workers, which it says affords the broadcaster more than enough flexibility.

The CBC has already lost a lot of money with last season’s National Hockey League lockout and could stand to lose even more if it has to hand over broadcasting rights for big-ticket sporting events such as Canadian Football League games or Rogers Cup women’s tennis because it can’t provide the play-by-play.

While no time as been set for talks to resume, both sides say they are eager to get back to the bargaining table.

Employees in Quebec and Moncton, N.B., belong to different unions and are expected to continue working.

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