Monday, October 27, 2003

The line forms to the right (of course)...

Monday, October 27, 2003
Edmonton Sun: Ex-magazine staff still owed
Wondering why ad money isn't going into paycheques

Nearly six months after it folded, some former employees of the magazine once known as Alberta Report say they're still waiting for their final paycheques.

Meanwhile, the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy - the non-profit advocacy group that replaced the magazine - has launched a costly campaign of radio ads against the Canada Pension Plan.

"I'm just surprised that the centre is proceeding forward with these very ambitious efforts when there's still that lingering stuff from the collapse of Citizens Centre Report," said Colby Cosh, who spent eight years on staff at the magazine.

Citizens Centre Report - the final incarnation of Alberta Report - laid off all its employees without notice when it succumbed to financial problems in May
[Wrong. It died on June 23. RH].

Cosh, who now does freelance work for the National Post, figures he's owed two years of vacation pay and about eight weeks' severance.

"I don't understand why there's been this silence all summer while people have been struggling to get by. It was a bit startling to see that one chapter had begun without the previous chapter being closed entirely," he said of the radio ads.

"A candid acknowledgement that we're not going to be paid and that we should screw off would be nice, but they've kept us sitting for five months."

Cosh said he's reluctant to seek legal advice, and he still hopes the situation can be resolved.

Kevin Steel, a former senior editor at Citizens Centre Report, says he's owed about $5,000 in severance and holiday pay and is now dealing with the Labour Relations Board.

Steel said Link Byfield, former owner of the magazine and now chairman of the Citizens Centre, didn't seem too concerned about it when he met with him in late August.

"I'm not too pleased," he said.

"It's disheartening."

The magazine's staff were employed by United Western Communications and not by the centre itself, which is a separate entity, Byfield told the Sun yesterday.

"I'm not denying that we owe them money," he said, adding that United Western Communications' bank account is virtually empty. "The amounts are not huge, but they're big enough that people will be concerned about it."

The company hopes to get money back from the federal government in the form of a GST rebate, "which will certainly cover some of it," Byfield said.

[Comment: For what it's worth, I don't think that Link means to stiff us. I say "us" because although I was a freelancer, I had done two weeks of newspaper clippings, my contribution to the Record and all the reporting for a story in the issue that was about to be published when Link decided to kill off the magazine. A "widows mite" to recognize this would be appreciated, but if I don't get it, well, I would shrug and remember the many years of paycheques I cashed from the Report magazines.

That said, I would advise Link that he explain to my former colleagues how he plans to make things good, if he is able to.

Link doesn't want to plant the idea in anyone's head that if Joe Albertan gives them something (like work for pay, in the case of my former colleagues), that he won't follow through on his side of the bargain and try to do what he said he would do. That sort of apprehensive thinking could deter contributions to a political campaign.

I would like to think that Link will do the right thing if he can. But he, more than anyone else, should know that journalists are sceptical and need concrete reassurances--in circumstances like these--that he will try to make things right.]