The Halifax Chronicle Herald's newsroom union members have walked off the job in Halifax, starting a strike at Canada's oldest independently owned newspaper.

The union and management were in position for a strike or lockout as of midnight Friday.

At least 20 newsroom staff were gathered outside the Herald building on Joseph Howe Drive ahead of the midnight deadline, said Francis Campbell, vice-president of the Halifax Typographical Union. 

"We're all in this together," Campbell said.

"We're looking for a fair deal and we're not going anywhere until we get one."

The union includes 61 reporters, editors, photographers, columnists and support staff.

Union executives spoke with company representatives throughout the day via text messages and emails, Campbell said. He said the union offered to not strike and continue negotiations into the weekend — if management agreed not to impose its contract.

The newspaper has been stuck in a series of broken down talks. Most recently, management said it would impose a contract on newsroom staff if the union did not agree to wage cuts, layoffs and changes to the pension plan and contract language.

Herald responds

Last-minute talks did indeed happen, Herald management confirmed.

"These were always going to be difficult negotiations," vice-president of administration Nancy Cook said in a statement released early Saturday morning. 

"I doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that media companies are struggling. Just look at the layoffs at Postmedia this week or the Toronto Star last week."

Cook did not respond to an interview request.

Talks broke off in December several times and this week's last-ditch efforts stalled.

Last year the company locked out the employees who printed the paper. The newsroom has had two rounds of layoffs, one in the fall of 2014 and the other in 2009. 

Wednesday management rejected a last-minute offer from the union, which including reducing wages by five per cent and cutting vacation time. 


The Chronicle Herald removed bylines after a byline strike by the union in recent weeks. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

Paper to keep publishing

The Chronicle Herald has prepared to continue publishing. The paper has an agreement with Brunswick News, a newspaper outlet in New Brunswick, to publish articles without bylines if they pertain to Nova Scotia, the union said Thursday.

Editors also approached freelancers to bank stories for a work stoppage and to contribute during it. 

Many reporters, editors and photojournalists employed by the Herald changed their profile photos to the union's logo in preparation for a work stoppage. Several removed reference to the Herald from their Twitter profiles.

"A proud member of @HTU_official," reads the profile of Stephen Forest. "Long live the newspaper."

"Soon-to-be-laid-off digital news editor @chronicleherald," reads that of Pam Sword. "All job offers considered. DM me."

Mark Lever, president and CEO of the Herald, said in a letter last week there would be changes, including layoffs in photography, editorial and page design departments.

Lever did not respond to CBC's interview requests Friday.

The CBC's Canadian Media Guild belongs to the same parent union, CWA Canada.