There has been a lot of posturing before and during the lockout of CBC employees this summer and fall.
But the loudest statement was the action taken by management moments after the Canadian Media Guild's strike mandate became legal. Without a by-your-leave, management changed the locks, locked out the workers, cancelled health benefits and maternity leaves, and reduced news and entertainment programming to the bare minimum, as provided by managers. All that without even the pretense of trying to operate for a day under a strike threat.
The message to the union members was clear: "We don't value you. We don't respect you."
That is a message management will have to downplay, once a new contract is ratified.
You have to wonder what carefully crafted messages of concilliation have already been written as part of management's resumption plan, following their concerted effort to break the employee's resolve and weaken the union.
The problem with CBC management's approach over the past few years, and most noticeably during the lockout, is that they don't seem to understand their employees very well.
While the 5,500 locked out workers are not all journalists, CBC is by and large, a community shaped by journalistic values. At the forefront of these is a profound distrust of authority's double-speak, and an endless hunger to find the truth beneath it. Yet in discussing the corporation's future, management tries to deluge its audience with staged meetings, rhetoric-heavy memos, pompous e-mails and news releases when the one thing employees would pay attention to is plain talk.
A review of management's missives shows a remarkable lack of vision, lack of subtlety and lack of openness. How do they hope to engage a group of aggressive, ever-questioning knowledge workers in the complex business of reflecting Canada to Canadians and the world when they can't clearly and simply reflect the organization's role to their employees?
Actually come to think of it, that's management's second problem. Their first problem is that no communication, however eloquent,can speak louder than that initial action of locking out people who view their work not just as a job, but in many cases, a vocation, and a service to their country. The locked out CBC workers are more than foot-sore and poorer by seven weeks' pay. They are insulted. Furious. And, judging by the outpouring of podcasts, blogs, and personal messages from the picket line, heart-sick.
There will need to be an action as loud as the first resounding slam of the locked door before the employees will listen to any kind of communication, no matter how well crafted.
My take? CBC management will find that it's impossible to engage employees in any kind of dialogue about the future until president Robert Rabinovitch and his top two VPs have left the building. They may not be burned in effigy, but the exec. pinatas are ready for bustin'.
Then the reconcilliation can begin.
(Note: my spouse is a locked-out CBC employee.)