VICE Union softens blow of Toronto layoffs

2020.06.19 | CWA Canada Local 30213 - Canadian Media Guild

Screen capture of VICE Canada website home page.

When Gabe Knox says his final goodbyes today as an employee of VICE Canada, he will have the satisfaction of knowing he helped soften the blow of layoff for himself and 18 colleagues.

Knox, a sound engineer who worked in post-production at the digital media company’s Toronto office, was also president of the VICE Union branch of the Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada Local 30213).

The CMG, which represents about 40 of the 80 employees in Toronto, said it was able to work with management to “mitigate some of the worst effects on our members” when VICE decided to restructure global operations, which were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

There were 155 layoffs worldwide, including 19 in Toronto, which was about half of the bargaining unit.

The CMG said it was able to secure four weeks of severance per year of service, which is double what is set out in the collective agreement. “We also preserved rare staff roles in editorial, which the union argued forcefully for, taking into account that the majority of editorial staff are women of colour. These wins illustrate why it is crucial for media workers to organize and advocate for themselves.”

In addition, they are eligible for a $500 training subsidy. The grant is available to any CWA Canada member who becomes jobless due to layoff, buyout or early retirement.

Knox said the last day for most of the members was June 10; he and a couple of others finish today. Another five members will stay on with various departure dates, ranging from July 31 to the end of December.

With five years on the job, Knox was in the thick of things during the union drive that resulted in 170 employees across the country joining CMG in June 2016. Almost a year later, they ratified a first collective agreement that covered workers in editorial, production, post-production, marketing, and building operations.

That three-year contract expired on Jan. 1 this year. Bargaining to renew the agreement got under way in March, but was interrupted when the public health crisis hit. When negotiations resume, the CMG will be proposing contract language that would promote a diverse workforce.

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