One of the biggest unions representing employees of CanWest Global Communications Corp. told an Ontario court Tuesday that it needs funds to defend its members effectively in the company's financial restructuring.
Representatives of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union asked to be included on the list of groups whose legal expenses will be covered in the restructuring process. The CEP is one of a few who are not eligible at this point.
The CEP said it has lost a significant number of members - 12,000 in the past year across its entire organization - due to layoffs and shutdowns in the economy. This drop, along with legal bills amassed in several other cases the CEP is involved in, has left it with less funding than needed, lawyers told the courts.
CanWest filed for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act several weeks ago as it tries to restructure a debt that reached nearly $4-billion earlier this year. Creditors are now working on a plan in court to reorganize the company's finances.
CanWest lawyer Lyndon Barnes argued against the CEP motion, saying it was not up to the restructuring process to fund "something that is part of the union's mandate." A lawyer for the CEP responded that the union could represent employees interests without court funding, but likely not "effectively" given the extent of the hearings. CanWest expects the process to last four to six months.
It was the second court appearance for CanWest since the country's biggest media company filed for CCAA protection. CanWest owns the Global TV network and the National Post newspaper. Those assets are included in the filing, however the company's newspaper subsidiary is not.
That business will likely seek a separate CCAA filing in the coming weeks. The newspaper subsidiary owns 13 dailies across the country, including the Calgary Herald, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette, but does not include the National Post.