Channel Zero and senior governments were blasted at a rally in support of CHCH TV workers suddenly fired last December without severance when their employer declared bankruptcy.
"We must change bankruptcy laws that put workers last," said Katha Fortier, Unifor's Ontario regional director.
Fortier prompted a loud cheer from the roughly 120 protesters in front of Hamilton City Hall Monday at the Unifor-sponsored rally protesting the termination of workers by CH's parent company. The rally was also in support of local news.
On Dec. 11, two weeks before Christmas, Channel Zero Inc. announced the subsidiary that employed CH's on-air personalities, producers and camera operators had filed for bankruptcy, immediately letting go of 129 full-time and 38 part-time employees. (Another CH-affiliated company then gave jobs to 58 full-time and 23 part-time workers.)
The bankruptcy filing suspended the company's contract obligations with the union, such as severance pay and seniority rights.
Channel Zero also slashed local programming from 80 hours a week to 17.5.
Several speakers at the rally criticized Channel Zero, which owns CHCH, for the "shameful" way it got rid of its employees, and senior governments for allowing this to happen, not only with CH, but with other companies as well.
It's time the federal government started "standing up for the working people," said MPP Paul Miller. "The government in Ottawa is not standing up for your dignity and rights."
Hamilton Labour Council president Anthony Marco said Channel Zero has zero respect for its workers, zero respect for seniority and zero respect for workers' rights. The company previously asked workers and viewers to treat CH like family, he said, adding "You don't turn your back on family."
Former longtime CHCH personality Donna Skelly, who lost her job and is now running for a council seat in Ward 7, pointed out Channel Zero itself is not bankrupt and said what it did was "unnecessary, unconscionable, and wrong."
CH'S local union president Phil Fraboni, who also lost his job, told the crowd that without severance, medical coverage, or proper notice, some of those fired have had to sell their houses and move in with relatives.
"We need to tell government representatives this can't happen again. If it happens with this small company, what's to stop large corporations? It's shameful," he said.
"We should have had what was provided for in the collective agreement."