Gazette staff yank bylines, work
to protest management stonewalling
Newspaper Guild | CWA Canada
A byline strike and work-to-rule
campaign went into effect today at The
Gazette as staff
protested management's stonewalling in contract negotiations.
Mona Leroux, president of the Montreal Newspaper Guild
(MNG), says the negotiating team suggested the job
action after talks for Editorial and Reader Sales and
Service (RSS) "bogged down" yesterday over
the issue of jurisdiction. Two days of bargaining for
the Advertising unit commenced this morning.
"Management is refusing to sign
a collective agreement that contains jurisdiction language
and will not talk about any other issues," says
The CanWest-owned Gazette is attempting to eliminate
union jurisdiction over work performed by its employees
and wants to merge job functions in some departments.
The bargaining team was handed a powerful strike mandate
on Sunday when members voted 100 per cent (Editorial),
98 per cent (RSS) and 59 per cent (Advertising) in
favour of doing so.
The 181 employees in the three units have been without
a contract since June 1. The union and management have
been in a legal position to strike or lock out since
This is the first time in recent memory that the union
has asked its members to work to rule, says Leroux.
The byline strike by journalists
is the first since a Quebec labour tribunal, in a
landmark ruling five years ago, restored their contractual
right to that form of protest. In December 2001,
dozens of Gazette journalists attracted international
attention — and
management's wrath — when they withdrew their
bylines to protest CanWest's plan to run identical "national
editorials" in most of the daily newspapers the
corporation acquired with the takeover in 2000 of the
When the Gazette's editor-in-chief
ordered all staff to restore their bylines, the MNG
launched an immediate grievance under the Employee
Integrity section of the collective agreement, which
an arbitrator upheld in October 2003. The ruling
confirmed that reporters, photographers, artists
and others at The Gazette have the "absolute right" to
control use of their bylines and credit lines on
stories, photos and other works, with the exception
of analyses, columns and opinion pieces.
"Just about everybody pulled their bylines today," says
Late this afternoon, the work-to-rule campaign was
having an effect, says Leroux, who was hearing reports
of some projects being cancelled because staff were
refusing to work unscheduled shifts.
The Guild has called upon members
the existing contract conditions to the letter. ...
strict observance of hours of work: seven hours, plus
one hour of meal break, and no overtime unless it’s
approved in advance by your department supervisor."
When bargaining resumed Tuesday for the Editorial
and RSS units, lead negotiator David Wilson, a CWA
Canada staff representative, was hopeful that the strong
strike mandate would move talks along. But there was
no progress by the second day so talks broke off Wednesday
Guild jurisdiction over work performed by its members
has been a critical issue ever since Gazette management
laid off 45 RSS employees in June and exported their
work to a CanWest call centre in Winnipeg. The MNG
is also in the process of 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
Contracts for all three bargaining
prohibit the assignment of such work either to employees
of the same employer not covered by our collective
agreement or to employees outside The
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.