Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, June 15, 2009

Forget John And Norma

I must have missed this story in the Windsor Star, if it was published there.

Canwest, the Star's parent, has its own Union issues.

Will Gord, who has retired now, demand that his fellow CAW members make concessions immediately to assist the Company? Sure they took on too much debt that has helped cause their problems but let the CAW workers suffer to help them out. I wonder what Gord will volunteer to give back to his former employer to help their cause.

I wonder if this fact may have helped colour the Publisher's group in the Star when they were writing editorials about the City strike...Naw, not possible....
  • "The Windsor Star editorial opinions are developed and finalized in the Publisher's Office. They are developed in a group setting by a group usually composed of Publisher Jim Venney, Editor-in-Chief Marty Beneteau, Editorial Page Editor John Coleman and Karen Hall. We believe that even if one member of our group has a bias or conflict, the remainder of the group is in a position to offset that bias. We also believe this method in an organization setting actually results in opinion formation that is far less open to conflict of interest."
  • Canwest seeking concessions from unions

    Last Updated: Friday, June 12, 2009 8:28 PM ET The Canadian Press

    Unions at Canwest Global Communications newspapers say they are being asked to enter concession talks with the company, which faces a major restructuring effort as it tries to deal with a crushing $3.9-billion debt load.

    The CWA/SCA Canada union said Friday the Winnipeg-based newspaper publisher is asking for wage cuts of up to five per cent, which could save it $20 million a year and help it avoid a bankruptcy protection filing.

    The union, which represents workers at five of Canwest's major papers, received the concession requests in a letter Friday from Dennis Skulsky, president and CEO of Canwest's newspaper operations.

    The union said it believes similar letters have been sent to other union leaders at Canwest newspapers.

    In a copy of the letter provided to The Canadian Press by Canwest, Skulsky suggests a five per cent wage cut for all Canwest newspaper employees would result in $20 million in savings a year.

    He describes the potential wage reduction as what "could well be the difference between a creditor protection process or not."

    Skulsky also highlighted the company's "candid and open discussions" with stakeholders, including its own employees, about the current business climate. He said those talks are important in "framing a successful path for this company."

    However, he noted that despite those efforts "we haven't been able to engage our union leadership in a dialogue that is constructive for both Canwest and its employees." CWA/SCA Canada director Arnold Amber disputed "the suggestion in the letter that somehow our union is unwilling to engage in talks."

    "We are urging Canwest to provide complete financial information and if it does, we would be open to further discussions," he said in a statement.

    "We have met several times this year, and we've underlined the need to have access to real financial data in order to have meaningful talks."

    "The focus of any talks now should be how to ensure that the newspapers we work for succeed in their cities. We know just from the numbers that have been made public that five per cent wage concessions are not going to go far in solving Canwest's overall debt, so we need to take a broader view about the problem at hand."

    Calls to the CWA for further comment were not returned.

    Canwest is working to restructure $3.9 billion in debt and has said it wants to have a deal in place by mid-July. The media company received several extensions from bondholders while it worked on selling assets and renegotiating its debt agreements.

    It recently received about $175 million in fresh financing from U.S. buyout funds and other investors, but it is believed the company will have to appoint new management in any restructuring.

    Canwest owns the National Post, based in Toronto, as well as a string of big-city dailies from Vancouver to Montreal. The company also operates the Global TV network and has other broadcasting assets in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

    The company ran up a huge debt load when it bought the former Southam newspaper chain and other assets in 2000 for $3.2 billion from Conrad Black's Hollinger group.

    Canwest also took on additional debt when it acquired Alliance-Atlantis Communications more than two years ago to boost its stable of specialty cable TV channels."

Here is something I read in Vancouver's Georgia Straight that ought to make the union members being asked to take cuts think a bit:

  • Canwest asks unions for pay cuts; what about Asper and Skulsky?
    By Charlie Smith

    ...I sent an e-mail to Arnold Amber, president the CWA/SCA Canada union, asking if he will seek similar wage cuts from Leonard Asper, president and CEO of Canwest, and Dennis Skulsky, president and CEO of Canwest Publishing. I haven't heard a response yet.

    Asper and Skulky qualify for bigger bonuses if they exceed their performance objectives. So in a curious twist, if they persuade the unions to take pay cuts, the top bosses' million-dollar compensation packages could grow even larger.

    In 2008, Asper collected a $900,000 salary and a bonus of $153,780. He was also granted options to buy 127,400 subordinate voting shares and 33,200 restricted share units at $7.50. The options expire in November 2017.

    Skulsky collected a $650,000 salary and a bonus of $498,938 in 2008. He was also granted options to buy 73,700 subordinate voting shares and 19,200 restricted share units under the same terms as Asper.

    The options are worthless as of June 12, when Canwest shares closed at 20 cents.

    Effective last September 1, Skulsky was paid a $750,000 base salary and incentive compensation up to 112.5 percent of base salary based on agreed-upon financial and personal objectives.

    If Skulsky is terminated without cause, he will receive two years base salary and the average annual bonus collected over the previous three-year period.

    Asper and Skulsky each earned more than any public-sector worker in B.C.

    Canwest's most recent information circular states there are four components to the company's executive-compensation plan: base salary, annual short-term performance-based cash incentives, long-term incentives, and perquisites.

    The desired mix, according to the company, is 40 percent base salary, 25 percent short-term cash incentives, and 35 percent long-term incentives.

    "Overachievement at 125% of financial performance target will be rewarded with a bonus payment of up to 150% of target," Canwest's most recent management information circular states. "Near target performance at a minimum of 90 percent financial performance targets will be rewarded with partial bonus payments of 10%."