While those workers embark on a three-year collective agreement, negotiations will continue for the business office unit, which rejected the company's offer, says Wilson. The four long-time employees refused to accept a proposed salary grid that would have put them at different pay levels despite the fact they perform identical work.
The culmination of the lengthy bargaining process for editorial, information technology (IT) and reader sales and service (RSS), dovetails with the opening of negotiations on Tuesday for the advertising and classified units, whose contracts expired on Dec. 31.
Of the deal accepted by members of the Montreal Newspaper Guild, Wilson says it's a "good one, outside of the money." It is, however, on par with recent salary increases in Canada: 1.5 per cent in each of the three years of the agreement, commencing today. In addition, job security provisions remain in place and there is a signing bonus of 1.5 per cent of salary for the previous 12 months, which for many workers could amount to $1,000.
The members, for whom negotiations began when the newspaper was owned by Canwest and concluded under the PostMedia Network regime, also won improvements in vision care benefits, shift differentials, automobile allowances and mileage. The latter is especially crucial in a province that has some of the highest gasoline prices in the country at about $1.45 a litre.
Other significant gains affect part-time employees, who will now be included with full-time workers on the seniority list for choosing vacation time. Until now, these workers received vacation pay on each cheque and had to take time off as unpaid leave. They also will join the rest of the Gazette workforce in receiving a prorated one-week winter break vacation.
Wilson says there were no takebacks in these contracts. As for concessions, the union agreed to management's request to have reporters carry video cameras, but the quid pro quo was that no photographers would be laid off as a result.
The five employees in the IT unit, whose contract expired just over a year ago, voted unanimously for the new deal. The vote in the 18-member RSS unit was 7-4 in favour of acceptance, while the editorial unit, with 109 members, had 63 ballots approving the contract and 20 turning thumbs down. Collective agreements for those two units expired in June 2008.
Wilson says that talks were suspended from January 2009 until last August while the parties were in arbitration over jurisdiction clauses. Conciliation resumed in September 2010, with the bargaining teams meeting a few days each month until today's deal was reached.