The Community and Public Sector Union has accused SBS of “washing its hands” of the fate of it staff as the broadcaster pushes on with its outsourcing of its play-out facilities for SBS One and Two.
While SBS has said no redundancies are planned, with the 62 affected staff moving their employment to new operator Deluxe, the union says there’s nothing stopping the private company from tearing up its employment agreements with staff as they won’t have the legal force of an enterprise bargaining agreement. Crikey also understands staff who don’t wish to transfer to the new vendor will not be given retraining or redeployment to other roles within SBS.
“SBS is washing its hands of loyal and hard-working staff by effectively handing over responsibility for them to a company with no guarantees for job security,” CPSU president Michael Tull told Crikey. “The reality is that those staff who have stuck by SBS over the years might not have a job within a year of leaving the organisation. SBS is gearing up to just walk away from them, and we are working hard to get those workers some form of guarantee.”
But an SBS spokesperson told Crikey that the broadcaster had been regularly engaging with the union, which was well aware of its plans. “SBS is working on a model to ensure that the terms and conditions of employment are maintained as a part of the proposed Transfer of Business.”
The planned outsourcing will affect SBS’ play-out, engineering and archiving departments, and has been in the works for much of the year. SBS has already outsourced its play-out for its subscription Studio and World Movies channels. Previously, an SBS spokesperson stressed that this was in keeping with current broadcast practice around the world.
“Digitisation and convergence is reshaping the media broadcasting industry and this shift is in line with a global trend towards outsourcing components of the broadcast value chain,” the spokesperson said.
Later, in an update sent to staff, SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said the transfer of business would include conditions on maintaining the employment and conditions of employees who transfer over. “We made this decision on the basis that it will lead to further efficiencies for SBS … Digitisation and convergence is reshaping the media broadcasting industry, and this move is in line with a global trend towards outsourcing components of the broadcast value chain.”
But the CPSU questions whether such a move would really save money.
“Once SBS loses its capacity to do its own play-out it becomes a hostage to the market, with private companies setting the price,” Tull said. “Malcolm Turnbull keeps talking about wanting more co-operation between SBS and ABC; wouldn’t it make more sense to do SBS play-out through Media Hub, which is 50% owned by the ABC and the Australian public?”
An SBS spokesperson said the broadcaster used a wide range of partners to deliver services. “In each case, SBS considers all options available, and will always select proposals that will lead to the most efficiencies for the organisation.”
SBS staff affected by the outsourcing have told Crikey they fear their conditions won’t be upheld by the new operator. They’ve also told Crikey they fear the precedent that would be set by such a move. “The skill set at SBS will be reduced over time. We won’t be independent anymore — because once you lose a set of skills it’s very hard to bring it back in-house.”
Nonetheless, the move appears to be powering ahead. In a statement sent to staff on Monday, Deluxe Australia was confirmed as having won the tender to provide the service. The global company provides play-out and distribution services to entertainment industries in the United States, Europe, India, and Hong Kong.
Also announced was the departure of Jonathan Helps, currently SBS’ manager of broadcast operations. He’s going on to a role as head of operations at Fox Sports.