KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Hopes that a 13-months long strike would finally come to an end were dashed when talks between 55 striking Chronicle Herald newsroom workers and the company broke down on February 9.
Talks between the two parties had been few and far between, so it is very disappointing to see yet another effort to end the strike come to naught.
“It’s frustrating. You go into these meetings telling yourself not to get your hopes up, but when you get in there you start thinking you’re getting somewhere,and then boom,” says Frank Campbell, vice president of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU).
“We’re at a stalemate. With the concessions we made we pretty much went a far as we can go. We would like to see the company move towards us, rather than not moving or even moving away,” says Campbell.
The HTU compiled an inventory of all that it has conceded since talks started. It’s a long list.
- 5% wage cut across the board
- Lower salary (8%) for new hires.
- The payroll, with layoffs, is reduced by about 2.9 million.
- Reduced vacation.
- An eight-year deal.
- Longer workweek.
- Reduced mileage rate.
- Freezing the pension plan.
- Significantly reduced severance to 29 employees expected to be laid off or bought out; plus even lower severance terms for those who return.
- Page production to be outsourced to Ontario or performed by non-union Herald employees.
- No severance for six staff members who quit during the strike. Equals $316,206.
But for the company this isn’t enough.
In addition to this, the Chronicle Herald is also demanding that staff who accept a severance package agree to non-competition and non-disparagement clauses.
Workers believe that this is too broad. Anybody doing journalism anywhere in the world would be considered a competitor under these terms and would have to surrender their severance, says Campbell.
As well, the Herald wants full ownership of localxpress.ca, the worker-run news outlet that has kept reporters engaged. We’ll shut it down, say the workers, but you can’t own the site.
The Herald’s insistence that an editor be disciplined and reassigned because of legal strike activity seems petty and vindictive. The union wants nothing of it.
The union is also resisting that web-editing positions be moved out of the union purview, and that sick leave be drastically reduced.
The company refuses to do layoffs by seniority, a key union demand. Instead it wants to handpick the 26 newsroom workers it intends to lay off.
An earlier HTU request to minister of Labour and Advanced Education Kelly Reagan to initiate an industrial inquiry to look into the issues was nixed. Campbell hopes that the latest breakdown of talks will cause the minister to reconsider.
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