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New CHCH station must honour union terms, Unifor says

It’s unclear what the relationship will be between the union that represented employees before Friday, Unifor, and the new corporation that offered 58 full-time and 23 part-time jobs to some of the workers let go.

Veteran weatherman Matt Hayes: 'I think the thing that really stung in all that was there is no severance'

The CHCH station in downtown Hamilton. (Google)

A sharply reduced number of reporters, anchors and staff went to work at CHCH on Monday, the first day back since the TV station's parent company announced Friday it was declaring the news operation bankrupt and terminating more than 150 news positions.

Eighty-one of those employees were offered jobs with a new company, and Monday, the union that represented CHCH news workers said that new company can't escape the union contracts the workers had before Friday's restructuring.

The thing that really stung in all that was there is no severance.- Matt Hayes

Unifor said the new company is a "successor corporation" and that collective bargaining agreements should hold for the new workers.

"They can voluntarily recognize us, or we can argue it in front of the Labour (Relations) Board," said Liz Marzari, a national representative for Unifor.

The new corporation offered 58 full-time and 23 part-time jobs to some of the workers let go. As of 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, 77 of those offers had been accepted, said Chris Fuoco, vice president of sales and marketing for Channel Zero, CHCH's parent company. The employees of the new company will produce a vastly reduced schedule of local news programming.

Marzari said the union had conversations with the company over the weekend and will be sitting down formally with the company on Wednesday.

Fuoco said the future of a relationship between CHCH News and a union "remains to be seen" but that the dialogue is ongoing. 

'The thing that really stung'

Employees who lost their jobs said the abrupt way they were treated added to the pain of being let go. They'll have to get in line as creditors in the company's bankruptcy proceedings for any severance their contract says they're owed, Marzari said.

Veteran weatherman Matt Hayes spoke about the cuts on his morning radio show. He said he understands broadcasting is a difficult business to keep afloat. 

"It's OK," he said. "It happens. But I think the thing that really stung in all that was there is no severance. And, you know, especially at this time of year, that's really hard."

Marzari had stronger words.

"I think it was a despicable way to treat long-serving loyal employees," she said.

Hayes said there should be laws to keep companies from declaring bankruptcy and immediately forming a new version to go on like nothing is wrong.

Fuoco told CBC News that workers were paid out any accrued vacation, expense reimbursements and regular pay on Friday, and he said no employee received less than $4,000. 

But multiple full-time employees who lost their jobs told CBC News that they received less than $4,000.

Fuoco did not comment on the employees who say they got smaller deposits than he'd told the press about. He said employees should direct such questions to CHCH Human Resources. 

'Wonderful, beautiful things'

Hayes also talked on 102.9 FM, where he also works as a morning show host, on Monday morning about the overwhelming reaction he received to the statement he put out – with some urging from his daughter, he said – on Friday night.

He posted it, tweeted a link and went to bed. But he was having trouble sleeping.

Then he started hearing the ping – ping – ping of notifications from another room.

"It was the middle of the night," he said. "I opened up my iPad and it was just flooded with messages from people that I do not know, saying the most wonderful, beautiful things. And I sat there in my living room in the middle of the night and just started sobbing."

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett

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