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CBC, Media Guild, squabble over Olympic per diems


TORONTO - The Canadian Media Guild and the CBC will be appearing before arbitrator Pamela Chapman on July 29 and 30 to deal with a dispute over meal and expense allowances for employees working at the Athens Olympics.

The CBC wants to give its employees $105 a day to cover meals and expenses. The CMG wants $146.

The Guild is asking the arbitrator to issue a decision before the majority of employees leave for Athens for the Games, which run from August 13th to 29th. However, many employees must be there prior to that start.

According to a CMG press release today, "In an e-mail to Guild staff representative Glenn Gray last Friday, the CBC stated: 'we would fully support those members who feel the allowance is not fair or reasonable, to withdraw from this assignment with no repercussions. However due to the tight time lines and in order to arrange replacements for those staff members, we must know who will be withdrawing by end of business Wednesday, July 14, 2004.'"

"If there was an Olympic event for attitude, the CBC would take the gold," says Lise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild. "It's 'saying take it or leave it' to the people who produce the network's biggest and most important programming challenge of 2004."

"The CBC has unilaterally downgraded its daily allowance from approximately $146 to $105 (CAD) for daily meal and incidental expenses in Athens. In setting specific meal allowances for cities around the world, the CBC's Human Resources policy refers to the federal Treasury Board rates. The Treasury Board calculated the amount of $146 for Athens," says the release.

"In the past, the CBC has never paid less than the Treasury Board rates, and has often gone above them, recognizing that street prices often go up significantly in cities where the Olympics are being held."

This time, the CBC says its policy gives it flexibility to decide on "special rates" for the Olympics, according to the Guild.

"The CBC appears to be exploiting the fact that people will want to work on a marquee event at any cost," Lareau says. "What about the next big event? Who decides when meal allowance rates can change? These are all important issues."

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