Halifax Local to file unfair labour practice complaint

HALIFAX — The union representing striking newsroom workers at The Chronicle Herald will launch an unfair labour practice complaint against the company.

The move comes after talks broke down because the Herald once again refused to compromise on its unreasonable demands despite the fact the union has agreed to major concessions.

The Herald refuses to negotiate fairly even though the union offered another huge concession Friday by agreeing to bargain a non-union production hub. The Herald finally responded late Sunday evening with a counter-proposal that practically mirrored its unacceptable offer from a month ago. The union has previously offered concessions, including an across-the-board five-per-cent wage cut and a freeze of the company pension plan, that combined would save the company millions of dollars over the life of a contract.

“It’s clear that they do not want to truly negotiate, they only want capitulation,” said Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, the national union that represents the 55 members of the Halifax Typographical Union who have been on strike for more than nine months.

“That is not bargaining — and it’s not legal.”

Herald vice-president Ian Scott recently threatened that, unless the union agrees to the company’s demands, workers will be on the street until March — or even next Christmas.

“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 complaint to the Nova Scotia Labour Board, to be filed this week, will argue that the Herald has engaged in a course of conduct designed to terminate union representation of Herald employees.

For more than a year, the Herald has tabled bargaining positions designed to be rejected. These “poison pill” proposals include a provision that would allow the Herald to lay off senior employees and replace them with new hires such as the replacement workers hired during the strike, and proposals that would allow management an unrestricted right to assign bargaining unit work to non-union employees and to contract out any work it chooses.

In contrast, the union has proposed common-sense language, including that layoffs follow seniority, provided the worker has the skills to do the job.

“As a responsible union, we understand when a company is facing challenges and we’re willing to help,” O’Hanlon said. “That’s why we have agreed to major monetary concessions saving them millions of dollars. But if this is really about money, why do they refuse to drop their non-monetary, union-busting demands?”

For the past nine months, the Herald has been publishing with a skeleton crew of replacement newsroom workers. Meanwhile, the company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal costs and $500,000 on security and private investigation to “protect” themselves from 55 peaceful media workers.

Over that time, CWA Canada has signed many deals at newspapers across the country with wage increases and no concessions. The Herald is the only company demanding major concessions.

“The Herald’s scorched-earth strategy has left its brand and reputation in tatters and destroyed its once-proud legacy as the newspaper of record for Nova Scotia,” O’Hanlon said. “We sincerely hope the Herald will reconsider its destructive and irresponsible course of action. We are ready to return to the bargaining table at any time.”

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