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Cultural organizations pay high price for principled stand in Herald strike

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The strike forced upon the Chronicle Herald newsroom workers is affecting not just workers and readers.

Politicians, such as members of the provincial NDP caucus and many candidates in the recent municipal elections, have refused to have any dealings with the Herald.  They do so at a great cost, because politicians need to to be able to get their message out.

Today we were reminded that many cultural organizations are paying a similar price for their principled stand.

Susan Leblanc, co-artistic director of Zuppa Theatre speaks about the impact of the Chronicle Herald strike on her company and the arts sector in Nova Scotia. Photo Robert Devet

At a press conference organized by the Halifax Typographical Union representatives of Nova Scotia’s cultural sector talked about the various ways they have been hurt by their organizations’ refusal to deal with the Herald.

We do it because it is the right thing to do

Reviews serve to alert readers that an event is happening, and also help organizations when trying to drum up support for tours and even grants, said Susan Leblanc, performer and co-artistic director of Zuppa Theatre.

“We do it because it is the right thing to do. In a society that is fractured and confused, it is the artist’s job to bring some clarity and sense to what is happening. Sometimes we do that in big flashy production, sometimes by quietly saying no,” she said.

The loss of the very talented Herald arts writers to a province-wide readership is also negatively affecting Nova Scotia’s arts world.

Current Herald writers can’t hold a candle to the likes of Andrea Nemetz, Stephen Cooke and Elissa Bernard, who now write for the worker-produced Local Xpress, said Peggy Walt, arts publicist and interim director Atlantic region for the Canadian Music Centre.

“No longer is there any record of many important arts events in Nova Scotia,” said Walt. “Andrea and Stephen are plugged into our community and they know the players. They work with us and they’re great writers.”

Pamela Halstead, director of the Valley Summer Theatre , said the loss of the Herald as a way to get the message out resulted in a drop of attendance by almost half for her company.

“We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. For smaller organizations such as ours that’s a tremendous impact,” said Halstead. “Our generally older audience is not on social media, and they’re not the primary audience of the Local Xpress.”

Playwright Mary Vingoe, formerly associated with both the Ship’s Company Theatre in Parrsboro, and the Eastern Front Theatre in Halifax, also spoke.

Complaint filed with Labour Board

Meanwhile the union has filed the unfair labour practices complaint that it announced last week.

The complaint states that positions put forward by the owner are tailor-made to be rejected, and prevent a collective agreement to be reached, said Claire McIlveen, a member of the bargaining team.

“As we make more concessions, they’ll change the target and move farther away,”added Willy Palov, sports writer and another member of the bargaining team.

“As well, they want to redefine the scope of our contract to exclude people engaged in page layout and some others as well. When you bargain the scope of a contract to impasse, than that is also an unfair labour practice,” Palov added.

“Some of the employer’s demands will take us back to early in the 20th century,said McIlveen. “I don’t think the strike is about money, it’s about control, I guess.”

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