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City councillors join union boycott

Territory's largest union says no interviews until strike over

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 14/01) - Two city councillors are refusing to talk to CBC reporters until an ongoing labour dispute between technical staff and the corporation's management is settled.

Councillors Ben McDonald and Kevin O'Reilly said Wednesday they won't do any CBC interviews as a show of sympathy for striking workers.

"There is a strike going on there and you're facilitating the operation by providing them with news and stuff they can get on air," said McDonald, who works with the Yellowknife office of the Public Service Alliance.

The strike-lockout began on Dec. 7 as talks between CBC management and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) representing 1,600 employees stalled.

The strike's main impact is on television. All regional broadcasts have been cancelled, including CBC Northbeat.

McDonald said he vetoed a radio commentary he recorded for CBC after the strike. He also said Alternatives North refused to comment on the recent federal budget on air.

"I have nothing against the reporters," said McDonald. "It's the other people in the organization who have problems."

O'Reilly echoed the same sentiments.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said he would continue to take interviews.

"Why not?" he asked.

The councillors are mirroring a territorial-wide union position on the CBC labour dispute.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada is also boycotting CBC reporters.

Jean Francois Des Lauriers, regional executive vice-president with the Public Service Alliance, said the union will not deal with the CBC "as long as the CBC does not deal fairly with their workers and as long as the labour dispute is current."

The union represents 50 bargaining units in this territory and in Nunavut, including federal and territorial government workers, all the hamlets, municipal workers in Inuvik, Yellowknife and Hay River as well as hospital and NWT Power Corporation workers.

The union is asking all its members to refrain from any interviews but said no one would face reprisals if they talked.

The Yukon Liberal government took a hard line on the current strike, directing its staff to boycott CBC interviews.

"In light of the labour dispute, we are asking government employees not to provide one-on-one interviews either in studio or by telephone. Doing either form of interview is considered "crossing a picket line," said an e-mail sent to Yukon government workers.

According to a recent Whitehorse Star article, Yukon Premier Pat Duncan, Justice Minister Pam Buckway and cabinet spokesperson Ken MacGillvary belonged to unions when they worked for the CBC.

Yellowknife CBC executives did not return phone calls on this issue.