The Chronicle Herald forced its 61 reporters, photographers, editors, columnists, editorial writers and library and support workers out on strike on Jan. 23 by imposing draconian working conditions, including a 17-per-cent hourly wage cut, a 12-per cent hike in hours of work and 1,200 changes to our contract language. The company wants to bust our union.
NOT ABOUT MONEY: The Halifax Typographical Union offered the company an across-the-board five per cent pay cut. The company rejected that offer outright and instead introduced an arbitrary pay scale that slashed some employees’ wages by 20 per cent while maintaining others at their pre-strike scale.
BY THE NUMBERS: The company boasts that it directly employs 500 people and 1,000 additional contractors at the newspaper, the primary function of which is to gather and present news. Still, the company contends that it must lay off almost half of its 57 reporters, photographers, editors and newsroom support staff to remain sustainable. The company has never led by example or suggested that owners' or managers' wages will drop.
PENSION CONTENTION: Before negotiations began, the company identified pension relief as its major demand. The latest union offer complied, offering a move from the existing defined benefit plan to a targeted plan. Still, the company inexplicably accuses the union of backing away from that pension offer.
ONE FOR THE AGES: The Chronicle Herald intends to lay off almost half (26 of 57) of its unionized newsroom employees. The vast majority of those targeted for layoff are over 50 and have worked for the company for more than 15 years. The company intends to lay off 26 experienced journalists while continuing to employ replacement workers hired before and since the strike began.
NO QUALITY CONTROL: The company boasts about producing a quality newspaper since forcing its newsroom to strike in late January. The reality is significantly less provincial coverage and stories that lack depth and are fraught with grammatical and factual errors.
SIZE DOES MATTER: The company claims that advertising and subscription numbers have not suffered during the strike. However, the size of the daily paper has diminished noticeably and the number of ads has dropped off. Advertisers and readers are not getting what they pay for.
THE REAL DEAL: The company considers its offer to be one of the richest contracts in the country. That’s a simple fabrication. Producing the largest newspaper in Atlantic Canada in the region’s largest city, the company should expect to compensate its newsroom and production staff accordingly.
JOB INSECURITY: The company says that it requires flexibility to remain sustainable in a rapidly changing industry. The company equates flexibility with the ability to hire, fire and promote with no regard for experience or ability.
WRONG WAY: With direction from a provincial mediator, the union offered a bottom-line proposal that included pension relief. Instead of compromising on any of its long list of concessionary demands, the company provided a counter-proposal that widened the gap between the two sides.