CanWest newspaper's expensive legal battle
against cost-saving measure baffles union
Island Newspaper Guild | CWA Canada
Union leaders at the Victoria
Times-Colonist are baffled by management's decision to waste money on unnecessary
litigation at a time when debt-ridden CanWest, the newspaper's
owner, is fighting to stave off bankruptcy.
Chris Carolan, president of the Victoria-Vancouver
Island Newspaper Guild, says the union will be going to expedited
arbitration next Wednesday over the employer's refusal to
grant an unpaid leave of absence.
Not only does the denial violate the Guild's contract, but
it flies in the face of a directive from CanWest to grant
unpaid leaves of absence as a cost-saving measure.
"The Guild finds this attitude by
local management cavalier and odd in these difficult
financial times for CanWest," the
executive says in a bulletin to members.
Carolan says a copy editor had, on Nov. 25, requested an
unpaid leave for the month of February 2009. The employer
cited disruption of the editorial department as one of its
reasons for denying the request. However, says Carolan, at
the time the request was made, only one other desker was
scheduled for two days off in February. He notes that it
is permissible for two deskers to be off at any given time.
The Guild, which cannot leave the
blatant violation of its contract unchallenged, "is at a loss to understand why
local management is prepared to throw away company money
(as well as ours) on this arbitration," says the bulletin.
John Hutchinson, a highly regarded
former president of the Local who is now retired but continues
to follow labour issues, slams management of the Victoria
daily for its "dogmatic
approach of fighting the Guild come hell or high water."
"This bloody-minded attitude appears to be a corporate
mentality as, even under previous ownership, the vast amounts
of money and resources spent going to arbitration after arbitration — with
a company loss rate of up to 85 per cent — has been,
and continues to be, amazing," says Hutchinson.
"I do understand, when in a few cases it is a corporate
principle issue, but most of our disputes/grievances are
resolvable if both parties are reasonable, pragmatic and
listen to their legal advice," he says. "I am at
a loss to understand how in today's reality the local management
can continue with the litigate-to-the-death mentality."