Screw the workers and look after ourselves! This seems to be the motto that Canwest senior managers live by, as judged by their actions in the current Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) proceedings.
Not content with the original $3.4 million worth of incentives for 24 senior managers (half paid out last December) to remain at their jobs, plus an additional $1.2 million in “special arrangements” for Dennis Skulsky and another unnamed senior manager at the National Post, last week the court was asked to approve even more payments. The reason? The work these senior managers do is critical to the company, their workload has gone up and their already high salaries are just not enough incentive to keep them on the job. They just might (gasp) quit, unless they get more money!
So what did the court do upon hearing this sad tale of executive woe? It approved an additional $1.3 million in incentive payments for the original 24 senior managers, plus three more who have now also been deemed worthy.
Who are these 27 senior managers? We don’t know because the court documents keep their names and individual payments secret. What we can say is that certain senior Canwest corporate types are beneficiaries of the CCAA system’s bias towards rewarding select executives for their plain-to-see failure (after all the company is in bankruptcy protection).
And we do know for sure that Local 2000 and Local 525 members who work at College Printers are not among the lucky few getting bonuses for continuing to do their jobs. In fact, there is a very real possibility that the 100-plus union members will not even get what their contracts say they are supposed to get when the plant shuts down at the end of September. This is because under the current CCAA system, companies may legally avoid paying severance, just as they can legally stop making up shortfalls in pension plans.
Our union asked certain Canwest execs to tell the court-appointed monitor that there was a good business case to be made for guaranteeing the severance payments at College Printers. After all, the Canwest-owned printing plant does have a contract with the Globe and Mail to print the B.C. edition of that paper until Sept. 30, 2010. Wouldn’t you think that makes essential the people who do the actual work of printing the paper?
Not according to the company’s letter that was sent to the court-appointed monitor. (It made it seem like the union was twisting the company’s arm even to write a letter.) Not according to the CCAA system.
According to the system, it’s okay to screw workers out of what’s in their supposedly legally binding contract. Not only that, the system says give the money, and more, to 27 already highly paid executives instead of the workers.
The lesson? I’d say it’s time we changed the system.