Alberta newsroom workers
volunteer time off
to protect colleagues' jobs
Media & Communications Workers of Alberta | CWA Canada
In a strong showing of solidarity, a majority
of newsroom workers at the Red Deer
Advocate have volunteered
to take time off in the next month to save jobs.
Almost 80 per cent of the 22 staffers eligible
to vote opted to take a day off without pay every two weeks
to save two full-time jobs that were threatened, says Jack
Wilson, president of the Media and Communications Workers
The vote was held April 9, shortly after the union was informed
by John Stewart, the managing editor, that newspaper owner
David Black, of Victoria, B.C., had demanded the elimination
of 75 hours of shifts weekly as a cost-saving measure.
“Never in my 35 years with the paper and more than
15 years since we organized wall-to-wall, have I been prouder
of a group of workers,” says Wilson. “We had
three part-time people even agree to take time off. That’s
a true sacrifice.”
Wilson, a reporter at the daily newspaper,
says journalists aren’t about to give up on friends,
workmates and the integrity of the newsroom, which is part
of the 160-member total unit.
“We’ve shown management and Black that there’s
more to our newspaper than simply being an ATM for the owner.
We’ve demonstrated that people come first," says
He says the Advocate has been cutting staff through layoffs
and buyouts since January.
Black is making cuts across his chain
to pay creditors for debts incurred when he purchased newspapers
in Ohio and Hawaii. He’s also a partner in a company
purchasing the San Diego Tribune.
“Advocate newsroom staff realize our industry is in
a survival battle," says Wilson. “Freedom of the
press is at stake since advertisers are sometimes calling
the shots in efforts to prevent so-called 'negative stories'
from being published about their industries.
“Gutting the newsroom is a real danger, especially
since we’ve lost a few people already this year with
the elimination of one reporter position who didn’t
return after maternity leave."
Another reporter, hired on a temporary basis, left for
a job in India; two others — a reporter and a desk
editor — accepted buyouts, and a part-time photographer
has been let go.
Other newspaper departments haven’t
escaped the chopping block either.
Jobs have been lost in the pressroom, circulation, advertising
services and administration departments.
Either people have been laid off,
bought out or vacant positions aren’t being filled,
Luis Rufo, the Local's secretary-treasurer/organizer, says
application has been made to utilize the Employment Insurance
program, which would prevent further layoffs.
The membership will have a say in whether they accept the
program, says Rufo. If approved, it would be instituted at
the Advocate and The Medicine Hat News.