The newsroom union for Canada's largest independently-owned newspaper has voted overwhelmingly in favour of striking should a collective agreement not be reached next week.
The Halifax Typographical Union, which represents 61 newsroom employees at the Chronicle Herald, now can walk off the job as of 12:01 a.m. Jan. 23
Union members met Saturday afternoon in the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union offices for the vote. The union announced on Twitter 98.3 per cent voted for "strike action if necessary to secure a fair contract."
Only one person voted against, lead union negotiator David Wilson said after the meeting. Another person was away and could not vote, he said.
"You can't ask for much better than that," Wilson said.
"We don't want to strike them. We may have no option, but we don't want to do that."
Wilson says the newsroom staff feel "angry, hurt" by the contract dispute and the "hostile approach the employer's taken."
"They're doing everything that points in the direction of a lockout," he said.
Herald preparing for work stoppage
The Chronicle Herald management has filed notice to lock out employees, and has removed staff bylines "indefinitely" ahead of a possible work stoppage.
Staff say this week management told employees they will have to turn in cell phones, laptops and other newsroom equipment on Jan. 22.
And just to underline -- we don't want to strike. We want to work with the company for a fair contract that upholds quality journalism— @HTU_official
Management also has approached freelance journalists to replace reporters during a work stoppage.
Nancy Cook, vice president of administration, did not respond to requests for an interview.
In a press release Saturday evening, Cook said the strong mandate of the vote was expected.
"We are hopeful that we can make progress on a new collective agreement. That will depend on the union's willingness to engage in real negotiations," Cook said in the release.
Mark Lever, president and CEO of the Herald, published an open letter in Saturday's paper about negotiations.
"To be clear, we do not want to see our colleagues on a picket line. It is not, nor has it ever been our intent to lock out newsroom staff. However, the current contract is unsustainable," Lever said in the letter.
Design, production and photography affected
Lever goes on to say "technology and necessity" have pushed major outlets to cut staff.
He says there needs to be changes to design, production and photography at the Herald.
"These changes will involve layoffs," he said.
Newspaper business 'an ugly business'
Herald photographer Tim Krochak posted the vote results on Instagram.
"Right now the newspaper business is an ugly business," Krochak posted with his photo.
"No one loves journalism more than a journalist."
The union has said it cannot accept most of the proposed changes. It says management wants to cut wages, lay off a third of the newsroom, and remove the gender parity clause from the collective agreement.
The two parties have two final days of conciliation to avoid a work stoppage.