Herald walks away from talks with striking newsroom workers

HALIFAX — The Chronicle Herald walked away from mediated talks with the union that represents its newsroom workers late Friday afternoon.

With a flurry of outright fabrications and half-truths, the company claimed in a news release Saturday that the union refused to negotiate on terms that had been agreed upon by both parties.

Terms that are already agreed on do not require further negotiation.

It was the company that reneged on sending its counter-proposal late Friday afternoon, arguing that the counter-proposal would be withheld unless the union agreed to a number of conditions that included refraining from legal strike activities and honouring a media blackout that the company then ignored in its Saturday news release.

“We agreed to bargain and to accept their media blackout,” said Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, the national union that represents the 55 members of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU) who have been on strike for more than nine months.

“They respond by refusing to give us their proposal unless we also agree to stop legal picketing – and then they cut off talks and break their own media blackout.”

At the same time the Herald was breaking the media blackout that it had earlier demanded, company lawyer Grant Machum was sending a note to the union negotiator saying that the Herald was willing to come back to the table.

“They need to stop these games and get back to bargaining,” O’Hanlon said. “We’re ready to consider their proposal and reply swiftly.”

Coming back to table for the Herald requires a willingness from the union to give up 12 to 15 bargaining unit jobs in page production for nothing in return. A company that has spent an estimated $1 million on legal representation and superfluous increased security over the course of the strike tells the union that it cannot afford or refuses to pay an additional $500,000 to enhance severance packages for newsroom workers who will be laid off after dedicating 25 to 35 years of their lives to the company.

“The arrogance and double-speak of Herald management is stunning,” O’Hanlon said.

The Herald identifies a number of proposals that it says the union has rejected, including wages of $84,000 in the final year of the contract, seven weeks of vacation and sick coverage. In fact, all these provisions were part of the expired contract and the company’s proposals are intended to significantly weaken those terms of employment. A clause in the company proposal directly attacks job security, stating that it is the Herald’s choice to have anyone do union work.

“We have said from the beginning that the company was interested only in breaking the union,” said HTU President Ingrid Bulmer. “We have tried to be conciliatory, to meet with them face to face and to discuss things rationally, but we’ve been rejected at every turn.”

The union has offered the company an across-the-board five-per-cent wage cut, agreed to move away from a defined benefit pension plan and a number of other concessions. The company, instead, proposes average hourly wage cuts of about 16 per cent based on an arbitrary and erratic wage grid, along with a longer work week.

“The company is intent on laying off about half of its newsroom while putting into effect a contract that would allow it to arbitrarily target returning workers for demotion or dismissal based solely on company whims,” Bulmer said.


For information, please contact:
Ingrid Bulmer, president, Halifax Typographical Union, 902-210-3465
Frank Campbell, HTU vice-president, 902-883-9048
Martin O’Hanlon, CWA Canada president, 613-867-5090