Whistler Cable goes union
First contract negotiations starting
By Chris Woodall
Staff of Whistler Cable Television have been certified as a unit of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
This is the same union that organized the Whistler Question newspaper.
"It's a small unit," containing five or six members, says Hal Hornung of the IBEW.
Staff have been certified for a couple weeks.
Certification approval came from the Canadian Labour Relations Board, a federal agency, because the cable television industry falls under the regulatory direction of the federal Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
"We're looking forward to negotiating our first contract," Hornung says.
Staff did not seek out the IBEW to look for better wages, Hornung explains.
"It's not always about wages," Hornung says of what prompts employees anywhere to seek out a union to represent their workplace concerns. "There could be human dignity or other issues. A lot of times it's the culmination of a whole batch of small issues."
Whistler Cable Television is a privately-held company. Owner and station general manager Ron Saperstein says certification is not a big deal and that he's fine with negotiating through the IBEW to arrive at a first contract with his employees.
The idea of having a union contract is misunderstood by a lot of employers, Hornung says. He says the contract acts as a dispute resolution program that creates a level playing field for everyone.
"It doesn't stand the employee up against the boss," Hornung says. "Justice is not only done, but is seen to be done. That's its greatest strength."
Hornung says the IBEW recognizes that an employer has to make a buck.
"That's always the fear of the employer: that we'll seek to impose a master agreement," Hornung says. "There's no way we're going to impose a wage rate that's beyond what the current wage structure is."
Question staff have been unionized for about a year. "We have good relations with them," Hornung says of the newspaper's senior management.
Having the Toronto Sun group of newspapers as the new owners of the Whistler Question is not a problem, Hornung says.
"The newspaper has to prosper for employees to be able to continue to work. The same goes for the cable network," Hornung says of the two unionized media outlets.