Management and unionized workers at the Winnipeg Free Press are working on competing websites to disseminate the latest Manitoba news, a day after workers at the province's largest daily paper walked off the job.
‘I predict these unions are going to strike themselves right out of a job. The newspaper industry is changing and the workers are going to have to change with the industry, too.’
--Mind Guerilla<a href=http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/10/14/free-press.html#postc>Add your comment</a>[/CUSTOM]
About 1,000 members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, which represents editorial, advertising, circulation and press staff, as well as newspaper carriers, launched the strike action at noon Monday.
Union spokesperson Mary Agnes Welch told CBC News that morale among the workers is good as they push for a common cause.
"There's enough stuff in this contract that makes people discouraged and frustrated and upset, that I think as much as we hate it we're willing to really go to the wall for our fellow employees," she said.
Reporters and editorial staff are working on creating a website to cover Tuesday's federal election if a deal with their employer has not been reached by then, Welch said.
Managers publish to website
Free Press publisher Bob Cox admits an election is a critical time for a newspaper.
"The timing is the timing and the contract expired just a couple of weeks ago. So, we anticipated that if there was going to be a walkout it would be around this time," he said.
Management would continue to provide news through the Free Press website for as long as the strike continues, he said.
"We'll be publishing as much as ever on our website … including all election night coverage tonight," he added. "We have a dozen journalists out around the city who are managers who will be feeding that."
Subscribers will not have to pay for newspapers they do not receive, Cox added.
Strike could be long: union
Negotiators for the daily newspaper and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union spent most of the long weekend at the bargaining table trying to reach a last-minute deal.
Welch said the paper put forward what it called a "final offer" on Tuesday, but she felt it was unlikely it will be accepted. Talks ended early Tuesday afternoon while union officials reviewed the offer.
The workers have been without a contract since Oct. 1. The main outstanding issues are wages, benefits and job security. The union is asking for annual three per cent increases in a multi-year contract.
Welch predicts the strike could be a long one if a deal isn't reached soon. Eighty-four per cent of union members favoured strike action in an earlier vote.
The strike doesn't just affect the Winnipeg Free Press; the National Post, printed at the same presses, was not available in Winnipeg on Tuesday, and some community papers are also not being published or distributed.