Union's diligence secures jobs, benefits,
pensions at Canwest newspapers
New owners commit to maintaining existing
CWA Canada's swift and persistent intervention
on behalf of its members has paid off for all Canwest newspaper
employees, who won assurances Monday from the soon-to-be
new owners that their jobs, benefits and pensions are safe.
Within hours of Canwest seeking protection
from creditors in early January, the union became involved
in the bankruptcy court proceedings, putting the rights of
its members squarely on the table. As a result, the buyer
group made prominent commitments to maintain existing operations
at the 11 daily and 35 community newspapers, retain all full-time
and most part-time employees, and assume all pension liabilities
and other benefits for active and retired workers.
In a memo to members today, CWA Canada
Director Arnold Amber says yesterday's announcement that
a group of unsecured creditors is buying the Canwest newspaper
division for $1.1 billion "brings
some order and security to the shaky and unpredictable existence
we have had since the company went into financial freefall
almost two years ago."
"Although there was no elaboration
of what is meant about keeping 'most' part-time employees,
one immediate interpretation was that it could be directed
at non-unionized workers," says
Amber. CWA Canada, which represents more than 800 Canwest
employees, has small numbers of part-timers in various departments
and larger groups in the mailrooms at the Windsor
Victoria Times Colonist. The union also represents
staff at the Ottawa Citizen, The
Gazette in Montreal
and the Regina Leader-Post.
The buyers, a group of mainly Canadian and U.S. hedge funds
owed $450 million by Canwest, is led by Paul Godfrey, chief
executive officer and president of the National Post. If
the bankruptcy court approves the sale on Monday, as expected,
the deal would close on July 15 and the company, with Godfrey
at the helm, would go public, with its shares trading on
the stock market.
Amber says CWA Canada is seeking
a meeting with Godfrey "to
talk about the need for a strong, local presence in all aspects
of its operations, the quality of its journalism, and good,
harmonious labour relations."
Godfrey, 71, a prominent figure in Toronto, is no stranger
to newspapers, having run Sun Media in the 1990s before it
was purchased by Quebecor. For the past 18 months, he has
been the boss at Canwest's flagship National Post. A sports
fanatic, Godfrey was instrumental in bringing the Blue Jays
to Toronto when he was the powerful metro council chairman.
He served for eight years as president of the baseball team
before joining the Post.
In interviews given since the takeover
announcement, Godfrey stressed his faith in newspapers
as the key generator of content for all media, notes Amber. "He
also declared that the financial viability of the new company
would rest on developing a strong digital operation to
partner the traditional newspaper side."
Amber tells members there is already plenty of speculation
about the takeover, with some media arguing that it's all
about making a quick profit with the public offering and
others betting that Godfrey will steer the country's largest
newspaper chain to a new prosperity.