Source: TVO_CMG/X

Since August 21, 70 TVO employees—including journalists, producers, and education workers—have been on strike, shutting down the agency’s news and education programming.

Cuts and privatization schemes

TVO bills itself as Canada’s oldest “television educational service.” Beyond its news programming it runs children’s programming, and even the e-learning services used in the province’s school system.

But, for decades, the network has faced cuts from Liberal and, especially, Progressive Conservative governments. That has meant increasing workloads, wage cuts and insecurity for previously stable media jobs. 

“Affordability has never been worse in Ontario, and many of TVO’s unionized workers are struggling to make ends meet after a decade of real-wage decreases,” the union said.

Most recently, Doug Ford’s Bill-124 mandated real wage cuts for the entire public sector—capping any and all annual “increases” at one per cent from 2018-23—while prices rose by over 17 per cent.  During the current round of contract talks, TVO demanded more cuts. Despite runaway inflation, the agency offered the 70 staff members a “wage increase” of 2.75 per cent in year one, 2.5 per cent in year two, and 1.75 per cent in year three.

By contrast, while TVO’s staff took pay cuts, its CEO—Tory enthusiast Jeffrey Orridge—has eagerly rewarded himself with regular pay hikes. Most recently, he secured a 10 per cent increase to his $300,000 salary in just one year.

The Ford government has also blocked the agency from hiring any new permanent employees. That means all new and even recent hires will be stuck as precarious contractors for years. As the union said, this means no health benefits, no job security, and no stability. 

The agency has also been targeted for privatization. After past efforts to sell the agency off entirely in the 1990s failed, the Ford government’s most recent five-year plan insisted the agency’s appointed CEO “commercialize” its material for sale to the private sector

“One has to wonder where the organization is finding the money to give managers such impressive raises while telling the union it simply can’t afford anything more than 1.5% increases for the people who actually make the courses, videos, panel discussions, interviews, and articles TVO is known for,” the union said.

For workers’ management

TVO is not exactly a subversive agency. Few would say its coverage is a threat to the province’s right-wing government. In recent years its flagship program, The Agenda, has been repeatedly criticized for host Steve Paikin’s close ties to Doug Ford’s Tory party. Yet the show, its staff, and all at TVO have faced cuts and the threat of sell-offs just the same.

Some believe the media and journalism are “independent” or “above” politics and the class struggle. This is clearly not the case. TVO’s assets are being cut by the province’s Tory government and Tory-appointed CEO, as part of a general austerity program. 

This has forced the employees to strike. Most recently, many of them joined thousands of other trade union members at this year’s Labour Day parade in Toronto.

It’s hardly a surprise, moreover, that the same media bosses who boost right-wing politicians have few scruples about cutting their own employees’ pay and outsourcing their jobs. Bosses in the public sector and the private sector may have their differences. But they also know they have a common interest—grinding more and more work out of their staff for less pay. TVO is no exception.

This is part of a wider trend.The crisis of the system is slowly but surely upending every old compromise. It is, increasingly, forcing all who work for a living to fight to defend their wages and jobs from cuts—whether they are port workers in British Columbia, Metro grocery store workers in Toronto, or even thousands of federal public sector workers earlier this year.

The only solution is to take the wealth of society out of the bosses’ hands—to fire the capitalist managers and replace them with a board of workers, accountable to the whole working class.

For TVO, this will mean media and educational resources that are accountable to workers, and not to Doug Ford and the billionaires who own the province.