RADIO STATION ONE STEP AWAY FROM UNIONIZATION

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By Adrian Morrow

Associate News Editor

Employees at CKLN are set to unionize after months of acrimony with the radio station’s board. Five employees are looking to join the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 1281.

The workers will take their final vote today.

“The decision [to unionize] was made in the last few weeks, but it should’ve been done years ago,” said Mark Bialkowski, a CKLN employee.

The move is the latest chapter in a troubled relationship between the campus community radio station’s staff and the board that oversees them.

Since June, the board and the staff have barely spoken and workers say they’re being shut out of staffing issues. The board hasn’t let the workers see a human resources report they contributed to last spring.

“We helped produce a report that hasn’t been made available to us,” Bialkowski said.

Susy Alvarez, a CKLN volunteer, initiated consultations and discussion over staff issues four years ago when she was a member of the board, but the current board hasn’t followed through on it.

What’s more, she said the board is shutting the staff out of decisions by not telling them when meetings are being held or sending them minutes of the meetings. Previous board members kept them up to date on board proceedings, but that hasn’t been happening this year, she said.

“The channels of communication are not functioning as they should,” she said. When asked if the board was opposing the staff’s move to unionize, she said, “that’s the feeling we’re getting from the board.”

News director Tara-Michelle Ziniuk said she’s barely heard anything from the board since it was elected in June.

In another sign of the board’s problems, two of its members have already resigned.

“I have concerns about the very quick resignations of two women who were very active,” said Ziniuk.

Board member Josie Miner pointed out that few staff or volunteers come to meetings, but declined to comment on the charges that the board wasn’t informing them of meeting times and dates, leaving members miffed.

At a meeting on the eve of the unionization vote, the board opted to talk behind closed doors, to the dismay of several staff and volunteers who showed up.

Before getting booted out of the meeting, Alvarez challenged board members.

“Is the board accountable to the community and the volunteers or is it accountable only to itself?” She asked.

Board members replied that the meeting had to be kept closed because they were discussing sensitive legal issues.

“What I witnessed there is anti-democratic. One of the fundamental principles of democracy is open meetings,” said Don Weitz, a volunteer radio host.

“It’s the right of employees to organize a union,” board member Chris Drew said.

“I’m going to encourage the board, if the vote goes through on Wednesday, that we should work to reach a collective agreement and we should work to improve CKLN,” he said.

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