Category Archives: Postmedia

Deadline deal averts strike at Windsor Star


Windsor Typographical Union | CWA Canada Local 30553

A tentative deal reached between three unions and the Windsor Star mere minutes ahead of a Friday midnight strike deadline scored all-around thumbs up in ratification votes yesterday.

The three-year collective agreement mostly preserves an enviable early-retirement provision that new owner Postmedia Network wanted to abolish. It was that stance at the outset of talks early in the new year, along with what amounted to a proposed wage freeze, that galvanized 230 union members and led to a 96-per-cent strike vote in late March.

Brian Beaumont, vice-president of the Windsor Typographical Union (WTU) and chair of its bargaining committee, says these were a “tough set of negotiations given the economic times.” Postmedia, which last year purchased newspaper assets from a virtually bankrupt Canwest, made it clear “it did not want to move forward with any wage increases.”

In the end, he says, “We got the best deal possible and that’s what we told our members (on Sunday).”

The WTU, with 72 workers in the mailroom; the Canadian Auto Workers, which represents staff in the newsroom, advertising and business office; and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers (pressroom) voted 100, 93 and 100 per cent respectively to ratify the contract that contains modest wage increases.

David Esposti, the CWA Canada staff representative who assisted the WTU in the joint-council negotiations, says the 60 part-time hopper feeders are the big winners. While all full-time workers get a $1,000 lump sum in lieu of a first-year increase (followed by 1.0 per cent in year two and 1.5 per cent in the third year), they get a lump sum of $500 plus a one-per-cent wage increase in the first year.

The other major victory for the part-timers, says Esposti, is that they retain their guaranteed minimum shift of four hours, which Postmedia wanted to trim to three, amounting to a 25-per-cent pay cut.

“By the end of this three-year contract,” he says, “WTU members will be making more than $17 an hour.”

Esposti says the “elephant in the room” during the four days of mediation last week was the early retirement provision, which allows employees qualified to retire at age 60 to receive half pay, full benefits and pension contributions until age 65.

Under the new arrangement, which is now in effect for all future contracts until existing employees have exercised their rights, retirees will receive 45 per cent pay and full benefits for four years and pension contributions for two years.

In addition, says Esposti, the employer-funded pension plan contributions increase by 25 cents in year two and a similar amount in year three, bringing the total to $15 per shift.

All three unions saw gains, including a night-shift premium that goes from $14.50 to $15 in year two; vision care increases $25 to $275 every two years; and sons- and daughters-in-law are now included as immediate family for three-day bereavement leave entitlement.

Esposti says there were several contract language changes that benefitted the WTU and one that retained the union’s jurisdiction but gave the employer a break on overtime rules.

The last two collective agreements at the Windsor Star were achieved within minutes either side of a strike/lockout deadline. This agreement will expire at the end of 2013.

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PNG bargaining continues


The full union bargaining committee at Pacific Newspaper Group met yesterday to discuss strategy and to get caught up on where negotiations are at.
“It was a good meeting, with full and frank discussion from everyone on the committee,” said Local 2000 President Mike Bocking. “We are moving forward.”
Last week editorial bargaining members and the executive met with management from both newsrooms to talk about the future as described by the editors in chief.
The next meeting, in two weeks, is expected to discuss pressroom issues.

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Workers at Windsor Star give bargaining team strike mandate

Windsor Typographical Union | CWA Canada Local 30553

Postmedia Network’s attempt to eliminate an early-retirement provision in their contracts has employees at the Windsor Star up in arms.

Members of three unions on Sunday voted 96 per cent in favour of giving their joint council a strike mandate, which could see them hoisting picket signs by mid-May.

David Esposti, the CWA Canada staff representative who has been assisting the Windsor Typographical Union (WTU) in negotiations that began in late 2010, says Postmedia’s assault on their contracts has electrified the membership.

“This is a very serious undertaking. The three unions are standing together on this issue,” he says.

The wages of the 65 WTU members who work in the mailroom are also threatened: The company wants to reduce part-time hopper feeders’ guaranteed minimum shift from four hours to three, which amounts to a 25-per-cent pay cut, says Esposti.

The collective agreement that expired at the end of December was reached three years ago only minutes after a midnight strike-lockout deadline. Standing united, the WTU, the Communications Energy and Paperworkers (pressroom) and the Canadian Auto Workers (newsroom, advertising, business office) were able to win modest improvements and made no concessions.

This time around, the newspaper is in the hands of Postmedia Network, a group of Canwest creditors who purchased the failing company’s publishing division last summer. In the runup to an initial public offering expected this spring, Postmedia has been cutting hundreds of jobs at the former Canwest newspapers.

With conciliation scheduled for next week, Esposti says the joint council is eager to get on with some serious negotiations and not waste time getting to mediation, the last stage before they can be in a legal strike position. “Let’s start the dance, sooner rather than later,” is the message he’d like to send to management.

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New owners of Canwest papers targeting business offices after slashing editorial, advertising jobs


Postmedia Network, having just slashed scores of jobs in editorial and advertising departments across the former Canwest chain, is now turning its sights on the newspapers’ business offices.

The new company’s owners plan to begin centralizing the finance departments’ functions in Toronto and Winnipeg by the end of January. Staff reductions will be accomplished through buyouts and layoffs.

While Postmedia says it does not envision departmental closures, it is unknown how many business office jobs will be lost across the chain, which includes the flagship National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun and Province, and the Victoria Times-Colonist.

Cuts in a newspaper’s business office will undoubtedly reduce local service and mean fewer connections between the paper and the people it serves in the community.

 “While any staff cuts are lamentable, we are particularly concerned about the editorial jobs that have been eliminated,” says Arnold Amber, Director of CWA Canada, which has members at five of the former Canwest papers. “Cutting reporters, photographers and editors certainly does not improve the quality of a newspaper.”

Although Postmedia is justifying the cuts by saying it wants to focus on a move to digital media, getting rid of experienced journalists is a recipe for mediocrity, says Amber.

“Loyal readers of these newspapers, advertisers and business customers expect high-quality local service and news coverage. If all of that is diminished, it does not bode well for the future of that community’s newspaper,” he notes.

The cuts have been swift and deep since Postmedia’s new fiscal year began on Sept. 1. CEO Paul Godfrey, while acknowledging that nearly all of the 11 Canwest dailies are profitable, is looking to recover $40 million to help pay down debt incurred when Postmedia bought the chain from Canwest.

CWA Canada has determined that Postmedia has shed at least 228 employees, including managers, across the chain. While it is difficult to obtain precise figures, the union estimates there have been about 100 cuts in advertising and at least 70 in editorial. Overall, CWA Canada has lost about 50 members as a result of the cuts.

Last year, Canwest chopped almost 800 jobs or 13 per cent of its workforce, while struggling under creditor protection, leaving Postmedia to inherit about 5,000 employees.

The most recent cuts were achieved by either buyouts or layoffs, with the former dominating at unionized newspapers and the latter at non-union papers.

One source told CWA Canada that all the cuts at the non-unionized Calgary Herald were layoffs. “Nobody was offered a buyout in the Herald newsroom; they were just laid off. Management announced that 35 jobs would be chopped, including eight in the newsroom.” The source adds: “The deskers (copy editors) feel like the sword of Damocles is hanging over them because management classifies them as ‘non-content providers’ and considers them expendable.”

This suggests that Postmedia is prepared to have its reporters and correspondents publish directly to the Web, without an experienced copy editor in between, ensuring an article’s accuracy, balance and, in many cases, legally acceptable reportage.

The Cuts
Calgary Herald
Jobs cut: 35 layoffs / 8 editorial positionsEdmonton Journal
Jobs cut: 20 (2 layoffs) / 8 editorial positionsMontreal Gazette
Jobs cut: 27 (23 union) / 10 editorial positions (includes 2 retirements)Ottawa Citizen
Jobs cut: 42 (17 union) / 10 editorial positions Regina Leader-Post
Jobs cut: 18 (3 layoffs) / 3 editorial positions
Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Jobs cut: 9 (unconfirmed)Vancouver Sun
The Province

Jobs cut: 50 (48 union) / 20 editorial positionsVictoria Times-Colonist
Jobs cut: 12 (12 union) 
2 editorial positionsWindsor Star
Jobs cut: 8 / 7 editorial positions
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