Strike at 3 Saint John radio stations enters 9th month
7 employees are seeking $12 to $17 per hour
Seven employees of three local Saint John radio stations are entering their ninth month of a strike as they fight the Maritime Broadcasting Group for better benefits.
The employees for CFBC, K-100 and Big John FM, which are owned by the Maritime Broadcasting Group, walked off the job in June seeking higher wages and paid overtime.
The workers are represented by the Canadian Media Guild and are asking for $12 to $17 per hour. (The CBC is also represented by the Canadian Media Guild.)
But the latest offer according to the striking workers is $10.58 to $12.98 an hour.
Kelly O'Neil, the general sales manager for the Maritime Broadcasting System, said the company is offering a 9.2 per cent raise over four years to current salaries with a $1,200 signing bonus.
She said the union's demands are closer to a 23.2 per cent raise over three years and calls it unreasonable.
"I did not think it would go on for this long and honestly it's an unfortunate situation for everyone involved," she said.
"Nobody, nobody wins in a strike situation and that includes the employer, the employees and our advertisers."
O'Neil said an offer is sitting on the table, including a $1,200 signing bonus.
Last talks were in November
The last time the two sides sat down was last November.
Workers claim there have been no cost-of-living increases for 12 years
The three stations continue to broadcast through a feed from Halifax.
Meanwhile, Rob Weir, a veteran producer with MBS, and Paul Jensen, the host of Big John FM's Afternoon Drive for the last 15 years, are operating RadiofreeSaintJohn.fm, an online radio station in the city.
"It's a way for us to get our message out," Weir said.
Jensen said he's hoping to get back to the bargaining table so the two sides can end the dispute.
"You have to have hope that finally somebody will say, "Ok, this has gone on far too long,’" he said.
Rod Hill, an economics professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, said the high unemployment in the city makes it difficult for workers to bargain for wage increases.
"The class war that business owners have carried out against workers is being quite successful," he said.
Hill said the strikers’ bargaining power is reduced because the three radio stations are able to transmit out of Halifax and still receive local Saint John advertising.
He said businesses are not going to pull their ads unless they are receiving pressure from their customers.
"I suppose we could see the current situation here as an example of a general imbalance of bargaining power. A growing imbalance of bargaining power between business and workers," he said.
"Part of that comes from a gradual decline of unions and unionization that's taken place over quite a long period of time and just in general. There's also been a decline in bargaining power because unemployment has been high."