Eighteen Chronicle Herald staff have received layoff notices on the first day of their strike at Canada's oldest independently owned newspaper.

Frank Campbell, vice president of the Halifax Typographical Union, said Saturday layoff notices had been issued to four photographers, 12 editors and two page technicians. He said the union's lawyers are analyzing the legality of the move.

"It wasn't on our radar that people would receive layoff notices while we were on strike," Campbell told CBC News.

The union and management were both in position for a strike or lockout as of midnight Friday. The union members walked off the job when the deadline hit. The union represents 61 reporters, editors, photographers, columnists and support staff. 

In a statement released Saturday morning, management at the Halifax daily 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, the release said. 

This is the third round of layoffs in seven years. The first was in 2009; the second in the fall of 2014.

Mark Lever, the paper's president, has not responded to interview requests. 

Chronicle Herald Layoff Notice

Eric Wynne, an employee of The Chronicle Herald, received a letter from management Saturday morning. (Submitted by Kathleen Spilek)

'Demoralizing' to see layoffs

More than a dozen journalists, including several who received layoff notices, gathered on the picket line outside the newspaper's offices in Halifax on Saturday morning as passing vehicles honked their support.

"To see a list of 18 people, it's very painful. It's frustrating and it's demoralizing to see 18 people you've worked with over the years, people you know as journalists and friends, given a layoff notice for seemingly no reasons," Campbell said.

The paper's management warned of layoffs early in the process of negotiating, Campbell said, but the union didn't expect notices to come during the job action. 

Talks between union and Herald management broke off in December and this week's discussions ended after union concessions were rejected.

'It doesn't augur well'

"We didn't want to see anyone laid off," the Chronicle Herald's chief operating officer Ian Scott said in Saturday's release. "The industry is reeling from the effects of online news and declines in ad revenue.

"We have tried to be as compassionate and caring as possible." 

Campbell says sending out layoff notices won't help future discussions — even though management at the daily founded in 1847 has maintained it's open to them. 

"It doesn't augur well for cohesive talks when the first we see, hours into the strike process, is a number of layoff notices," he said. 

Strike pay will be temporarily offered to those who were laid off until the union reaches an official decision on the matter, Campbell said.

Speaking from the picket line, union president and photographer Ingrid Bulmer said "the company is destroying itself" and that striking was the union's only option. 

"When you get rid of three photographers, the people who made it look pretty, I don't think you can expect it to look as good," she said.

"I don't think you can expect it to have the copy editing that would be done and the corrections that are needed. It's just not going to be the paper that it was."

Messages of solidarity

On Wednesday, the union asked supporters to cancel their subscriptions to the paper. They also announced they would be soon starting a local news site, called Local Xpress, featuring between three and five stories a day. 

On Saturday, the Nova Scotia NDP announced their caucus will not be accepting media requests from the Herald while the strike continues. 

"During this period, the NDP will not participate in interviews with replacement freelance reporters hired by the Herald," their statement read.

Many have taken to Twitter to express their support. 


  • An earlier version said photographer Eric Wynne received a layoff notice. In fact, he received a different letter from management. Due to a misunderstanding, CBC was given incorrect information.
    Jan 23, 2016 7:54 PM AT
With files from David Irish, Stephanie vanKampen and Blair Sanderson