KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It seems hard to believe, but Chronicle Herald newsroom workers have been on a defensive strike for one year now.
Hundreds of striking Herald employees, readers, and members of Nova Scotia’s labour movement rallied in six towns across Nova Scotia in recognition of that somber anniversary.
Well over two hundred supporters gathered in front of the Chronicle Herald offices on Dutch Village Road in Halifax as they listened to speeches by labour leaders and politicians.
“It’s been humbling to realize that we belong to a much larger family than we originally realized,” said Ingrid Bulmer, president of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU). “We want to thank from the bottom of our hearts all who are here today and all the unions that have helped us.”
Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, the parent union of the HTU, didn’t mince words.
“My God, a year on strike, for this nonsense. There is absolutely no reason for the strike, it’s crazy. We have offered to take a wage cut, we have given them concessions across the board. Any employer would take what we offered with a big smile on their face,” O’Hanlon told the crowd.
“As you can imagine, we are getting a little tired of this shit. But we’re still talking, we finally have these guys back at the table, and we are hopeful there will be a breakthrough.
“But I tell you, if there isn’t, this fight will get stronger and louder. We are not going to cave in. This is about quality journalism and quality jobs, and if we want that we need to fight for it,” O’Hanlon said.
Leaders of all major unions, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, and the Halifax Dartmouth District Labour Council also spoke at the rally.
As did Gary Burrill, leader of the provincial NDP, who compared Herald owner, president and CEO Mark Lever to some kind of mini version of Donald Trump.
“When people say they’re scared of Trump, what they are they really saying is that they’re scared of a world where big money gets to be big bully. Where bullying gets combined with contempt for journalism, and in the end, contempt for the truth. All this is personified in Mark Lever,” Burrill said.
Talks to resume, again
As workers begin year two of the strike, talks between the Herald and the union are expected to resume. But workers at the rally were not getting their hopes up. They have seen talks start up several times now, only to be abruptly broken off by their employer after a short time.
The company wants to cut salaries and increase working hours, significantly reduce benefits in the defined benefit pension plan, and eliminate seniority considerations when staff are targeted for layoffs.
As well, management insists it needs to reduce the newsroom in size and farm out layout and design to a non-union entity.
Throughout the long year workers have come out to the picket line in all kinds of weather while also maintaining the Local Xpress, a worker-owned online news site.
Workers have also conducted a successful public relations campaign against the scab paper and its ever diminishing number of advertisers.
This fall, for the first time ever, circulation numbers in Halifax for Metro Halifax exceeded those of the Herald.
Nova Scotia Federation of Labour calls for public inquiry
Danny Cavanagh, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, reiterated his call for a public inquiry into the labour dispute.
“We question why the employer says it has no money, yet only wants to lay off unionized staff,” says Cavanagh. “And how can they afford the expensive security staff following `workers around and filming them as they picket in various locations,” Cavanagh told the Nova Scotia Advocate.
“The minister of Labour, under the Trade Union Act can set up an inquiry into these kinds of disputes. What we envision is a three-person panel, representatives of the union and the employer, and a neutral chair. That panel can look at what both sides are saying and establish where the truth lies,” says Cavanagh.
That information would then allow a conciliator to make an informed recommendation, Cavanagh says.
The governing Liberals’ formal position on the Chronicle Herald labour conflict has been decidedly hands-off.
Meanwhile, liberal MLAs continue to use public money to pay the Herald for subscription fees and advertising, to the tune of thousands of dollars.
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