Labour Minster Joe Fontana hosted both sides in the CBC labour dispute in his Ottawa office on Monday and said both the union and management have agreed to continue talks through the day.
â€?Both parties have demonstrated a willingness to resolve this dispute. They have agreed, at my invitation, to remain in the building and resume negotiations on the remaining issues with the assistance of our mediator and the director-general of the federal mediation and conciliation service.
Insiders have viewed Mr. Fontana's request to move negotiations to Ottawa and to place them under the Labour Department's oversight as the surest sign yet that the lockout of roughly 5,500 CBC workers, now entering its seventh week, may be nearly over.
He said he would meet with the union and management later in the day to check on the status of the talks.
In a speech he made to both sides, Mr. Fontana said he is concerned about the length of time it is taking to come to agreement on issues. He said that it is unacceptable that the workers have been out of the office for so long and a solution to the disagreement must be arrived at soon.
"You all need to keep in mind that the CBC is a public institution, not the private playground of the union and management," Mr. Fontana said.
He also said he has received an "extraordinary number" of complaints from Canadians who are frustrated with the lack of progress in the lockout.
"Clearly it is time to settle this dispute, in the interest of all Canadians."
Both the Liberal Labour Minister and Heritage Minister Liza Frulla took some opposition heat on the matter during Question Period Monday for not doing enough to intervene. Opposition parties slammed the Liberals for allowing the CBC lockout to last so long.
Mr. Fontana said he is hopeful that an end to the dispute is near.
â€?I indicated before, both parties are willing to negotiate and are, fact, negotiating at this moment.
â€?We are determined to make sure that they're at the table, to make the necessary compromises with regard to the issues at hands, and let the collective bargaining process work, and we're there to assist them, they're willing to negotiate and willing to make the compromises necessary, and we're hopeful about this state of events.â€?
The main issue in the dispute is the contracting out of workers.
Ottawa had been reluctant to get involved in the lockout, saying that the dispute between the guild and CBC management needs to be resolved at the bargaining table.
However, many insiders describe a confluence of events pushing Ottawa to find a solution, from the embarrassment of the public broadcaster not being properly able to air MichaÃ«lle Jean's swearing in as the new governor-general to the effect that the absence of the CBC's regular coverage of federal politics is having on political parties.
On Tuesday, Ms. Jean will be installed but the CBC won't have coverage of the event.
Employees at the corporation have been locked out since Aug. 15.