Management at The Chronicle Herald has suspended layoff notices sent out Saturday morning to some staffers at the daily newspaper until further notice, according to the vice president of the Halifax Typographical Union.
The union's bargaining committee met briefly with company representatives Sunday morning for "very, very preliminary" discussions, Frank Campbell told CBC News.
The Chronicle Herald's vice president of administration, Nancy Cook, confirmed the layoff suspensions.
"The result of a work stoppage, in this case a strike, suspends various aspects of the employment relationship, including the layoff notices," Cook wrote in an email to CBC News.
Campbell said the company's lawyer told the union layoff notices "will be suspended until such time our strike action has ended or we reach an agreement."
The union and management were both in position for a strike or lockout as of midnight Friday. Members of the union, which represents 61 reporters, editors, photographers, columnists and support staff, walked off the job when the deadline hit.
The layoff notices were issued to four photographers, 12 editors and two page technicians on the first morning on the strike, Campbell said, adding the union's lawyers are looking at whether the move is legal.
The company has said it wishes to contract out some of the paper's functions such as copy editing and page layout.
Some to be offered new jobs
In a statement released Saturday morning, Herald management confirmed the layoffs, adding that seven employees will be offered new jobs in the company's centralized production centre.
The new jobs will be offered at the same union scale for at least one year, the release said. The 11 other workers will be offered a year's severance pay.
Photographer Christian Laforce said the union sent him an email on Sunday confirming the layoff he received Saturday had been suspended.
Campbell said a resolution won't be found Sunday: Both sides "have a ways to go," which is something Nancy Cook addressed in a statement released Sunday evening.
"We're pleased to see that the union has made some real efforts to achieve the monetary concessions we require," she said. "There are still a number of significant hurdles to overcome."
Not a lot of inspired confidence
And while some of the 18 staff members who received notices now feel somewhat better, Campbell said, "just knowing that their names are out there and will probably grace that layoff list again probably doesn't have them feeling all that great."
Tom McCoag, who has designed pages on a nightly basis and worked for the family-owned publisher in various positions for 33 years, said the letter he received from Chronicle Herald management on Saturday was two-fold. One part described the economic reasons why he was laid off.
The second read, "Thomas, the company has deemed you have qualities that we want. We offer you a position in this new hub' they're talking about," McCoag said during an interview on the picket line.
He said if he were to take that offer, which would amalgamate his current responsibilities with some web work, his salary in the first year would be cut by five per cent. In the second year, he added, his salary would drop to $52,000 a year from $71,000, he said.
McCoag said he doesn't feel any better that the paper's management has rescinded the layoff notices. He sees the decision to send them out in the first place as a way to "sow dissension."
McCoag said he sees a ray of hope in the fact that the two sides are talking again, but added that if discussions continue as they had been they'll likely turn nasty quickly.
"It was this or the highway," he said of the company's position. "They figure they can do what they want and that's what they did."
Herald management says the two sides have agreed to meet again Monday to continue talks.