Monday marked two years that 253 journalists and office staff were locked out of Quebec's most popular French-language tabloid newspaper, the Journal de Montréal, and there is finally a glimmer of hope for an end to the standoff.
Since Jan. 24, 2009, the newspaper has continued to publish without missing a day, relying on material produced by management, other media owned by Quebecor and by other news agencies.
The good news is that both the union and the employer, Quebecor Media Inc., have been back at the table negotiating since last Wednesday.
But it has been a sad two years, said union president Raynald Leblanc on Sunday.
"Workers have been getting by with less money than before. [They] haven't been contributing to their retirement fund, and many feel like they've lost their identity," said union president Raynald Leblanc in French. The workers rejected by almost 90 per cent the last serious offer by QMI last October.
Most members of the union voted against it because it had the potential of pitting workers against each other.
QMI was offering to bring back some of the locked-out employees, but at the same time was reported to be planning to cut most of the jobs.
QMI was also asking for concessions from the employees, such as longer working ours, reduced benefits and the right for the company to have some work done by outside sources.
The media giant is owned by Pierre Karl Peladeau. He locked out editorial and office staff after failing to renew their collective agreement, and it has turned out to be the longest of its kind in North America.
Workers locked out of the newspaper have been providing an online news source at www.ruefrontenac.com.
However, Leblanc said there have been some serious discussions with QMI recently.
The two sides have been meeting with the help of a mediator from the province's Labour Ministry.
Quebecor president Pierre Karl Peladeau said Sunday he would also like to see an end to the lockout.
The workers have organized a concert to be held in Montreal on Monday to raise some money and mark the anniversary.
An earlier version of this story, based on material from The Canadian Press, said erroneously that the Journal de Montréal has used replacement workers to keep publishing. In fact, the paper uses material supplied by management, other media owned by Quebecor and other news agencies.Jan 24, 2011 7:40 PM ET