HALIFAX – The union representing newsroom staff at The Chronicle Herald says the company broke off talks after two days at conciliation.
“The Herald left the negotiation table abruptly, leaving the union to digest a total rewrite of the contract that would set us back 20 years,” read an email statement from Ingrid Bulmer, president of the Halifax Typographical Union.
According to the union, the company is asking for salary cuts and increased working hours, cuts to benefits and the defined benefit pension plan, and the removal of protections for seniority.
Halifax Herald Ltd.’s proposal would also remove the equal pay for equal work clause for male and female employees, according to the union’s press release.
“We believe that the company, from the beginning, intended to lock us out,” Bulmer said.
Counter argument from The Herald
In a statement emailed out from The Chronicle Herald management Monday, the newspaper acknowledges talks broke off Friday afternoon, but contradicts many of the claims made by the union.
The Herald says the claim that the company is backing away from gender equality is “preposterous,” adding that new language covering all elements of the Human Rights Act, including equal pay for equal work, had been introduced.
The statement also contradicts the union’s statement that the talks broke off “abruptly”.
“We waited for hours for the union to respond,” said Herald VP of administration, Nancy Cook. “The conciliation officer asked us to wait and so we did.”
READ MORE: Tentative agreement reached between Chronicle Herald and press workers
The Herald said the company wanted to make a number of changes to the collective agreement, including increasing working hours in a work week and “bringing pay closer to market rates.”
“Current levels of compensation are simply not sustainable and adjustments must be made,” Cook said.
The statement also says union was given several monetary and non-monetary proposals during the two days of negotiations, and was provided with a substantial financial disclosure. The Herald says the union’s only proposal was a 7.5 per cent increase over three years.
In addition, the company says The Herald is no different from The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, and that they need to be able to outsource some work being done within the bargaining unit.
30 per cent of newsroom staff will be laid off whether the union accepts the concessions or not, Bulmer said. With a newsroom staff of 61 people, that means 18 could lose their jobs.
The layoffs would come on top of 17 buyouts and layoffs that the Herald made last year, Bulmer said. As part of the layoffs, all photojournalists would be let go and the paper would reclassify reporters as multimedia journalists.
The company says that now that talks have ended, both sides “will start a countdown to a potential strike or lockout.”
“We do hope that the unionized journalists will understand that the industry is in transition and that Nova Scotia is not immune to some of the challenges being faced in the industry.”
The Herald says they hope the two sides can come together again in January in a “last ditch effort” to come to an agreement.