Unionized employees at the oldest independently-owned newspaper in the country have walked off the job.
Newsroom staff at the Chronicle Herald have been on strike since midnight Friday and vow to stay on the picket lines until workers can get a fair deal.
“Morale seems good,” says Frank Campbell, vice-president of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU). “We’re sticking together and we’re gonna see this thing through.”
The union represents 61 workers are the Chronicle Herald. They say the company has never budged from its proposals and want to make more than 1,200 changes to their existing contract.
HTU says they had no choice but to strike after their employer notified them they would be imposing working conditions.
“We can’t agree to the contract that they’ve offered so why would we agree to continue to work in those conditions. We were forced to strike. We don’t want to be out here but there was no other option,” says Ingrid Bulmer, HTU President.
“Imposing regressive working conditions is an extremely provocative move and the Herald knew full well that it would result in a strike,” said CWA-SCA Canada staff representative Dave Wilson in a news release. “In my 20 years of negotiating newspaper contracts in Canada, I’ve never seen an employer do this before.”
The two sides have been without a contract since last November. The Chronicle Herald says the union refused to accept management’s new contract terms, which included working 40 hours per week and journalist pay ranging from $71,000 to $82,000.
18 layoff notices were handed out Saturday morning to photographers, editors and newsroom support staff. The union says they are currently getting their lawyers to examine whether or not it’s legal to layoff workers while they are on strike.
Ian Scott, Chief Operating Officer with the Chronicle Herald, says seven of the laid off staff will be offered new jobs in the company’s centralized production centre, which would be at the same union scale for a minimum of a year. The other workers would receive severance.
“We didn’t want to see anyone laid off,” Scott said in a news release. “The industry is reeling from the effects of online news and declines in ad revenue.”
The union says the Chronicle Herald has contracted out its online work to a company in Ontario, while journalists in New Brunswick will provide content to the paper.
“We have tried to be as compassionate and caring as possible. But the economics of a news business today are excruciating,” said Scott.
The Nova Scotia NDP have said they will not be accepting media requests from the Chronicle Herald while its unionized workers are on strike. They will also not send press releases or submit opinion pieces to the paper.
“We need to stand with the women and men who produce the news we depend on to stay informed about what’s going on in our province,” says NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald. “They are dedicated professionals and deserve to be treated fairly and respected for the important job that they do.”
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