Montreal negotiators seek
mandate to preserve
contracts' jurisdiction language
Newspaper Guild | CWA Canada
Negotiators hoping to preserve coveted
jurisdictional language in three contracts at The
Gazette say they are counting on the membership to give them
a powerful strike mandate when a vote is held on Sept.
"We're hitting a wall on non-monetary issues" such
as jurisdiction and job functions, says CWA Canada
staff representative David Wilson, who is leading the
negotiations for the Montreal Newspaper Guild (MNG).
Through four days of talks in July and late August, "we
have hashed these issues ad nauseum."
As for the MNG's financial proposals
for advertising, editorial and circulation employees,
says Wilson, "the employer has told us we're dreaming."
The union is seeking a three-year deal with annual
wage increases of six per cent, a major boost in vehicle
allowance from $700 to $900 a month, plus improvements
in vacation time, vision care and night shift differentials.
The two sides have been in
an open position — when
either a strike or lockout is legal — since early
June and mid-July.
Mona Leroux, the Local's president, says she hopes
the membership will emulate their counterparts at The
Ottawa Citizen, who last Thursday voted 83 per cent
in favour of a strike mandate.
The MNG and the Ottawa Newspaper Guild co-ordinated
mobilizing campaigns earlier this month at their respective
CanWest-owned newspapers. Black T-shirts have been
issued to members of both Locals along with buttons
proclaiming their rejection of management positions.
Wages are the main issue in Ottawa, where severe staff
cuts have left workers, particularly those in editorial,
bearing an ever-increasing burden. The employer is
offering a two-year deal with increases of 1.0 and
1.5 per cent, at a time when national inflation is
running at 3.4 per cent.
In Montreal — one of only two CanWest newspapers
with Guild contracts that have strong jurisdictional
language — thwarting the company's outsourcing
plans is paramount.
Gazette management laid off 45 RSS employees in June
and exported their work to a CanWest call centre in
Winnipeg. The union is grieving the transfer of other
work (layout of some pages and the Driving section,
electronic photo desk functions, business office duties)
to non-unionized CanWest facilities in Hamilton and
The three contracts covering
almost 200 staff "clearly
prohibit the assignment of such work either to employees
of the same employer not covered by our collective
agreement or to employees outside The
In a move that has angered
editorial department employees, management wants
to reclassify reporters, photographers, artists and
critics as "journalists" so that
they can be forced to provide multi-media content for
the online Gazette and CanWest's internet portals.
The company, says Leroux, would
have reporters and critics taking photographs and
video footage, and photographers acting as writers. "The only thing missing is
the mop," she says wryly.
"We don't want to be dinosaurs. We know we need
to embrace new technologies, but we also have to protect
our members' integrity," says Leroux.
The company also wants crossover
between RSS and the business office, which have separate
contracts, says Leroux, and "there's talk of
merging advertising and classified."
Guild members in the business office, whose contract
doesn't expire until next July, have been showing tremendous
support for their colleagues in the three units that
are in negotiations, she says.
The status of negotiations and the upcoming strike
vote are sure to be the focus of bargaining unit meetings
at noon tomorrow and Monday, when members will elect
delegates to sit on the Local's main executive.
A general membership meeting, originally scheduled
for Sept. 25, will now coincide with the strike vote
on Sunday, Sept. 28. The meeting is to begin at noon
at the Intercontinental Hotel.
Negotiations for Editorial and RSS are scheduled for
Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Talks for Advertising are set
for Oct. 2 and 3.