Chronicle Herald deal reached thanks to province, union says
Head of newspaper's parent union says nearly 19-month standoff ended because of provincial government
The deal between the Halifax Chronicle Herald's owner and its striking workers that was voted on Thursday was reached thanks to the intervention of the provincial government, says the head of the newspaper's parent union.
"That was completely responsible for the deal," said Martin O'Hanlon, president of the Communications Workers of America Canada.
"We had been ... calling for this for many months. And I think this has now proven the importance of that legislation."
On Thursday afternoon, 94 per cent of unionized newsroom staff of Nova Scotia's oldest independently owned newspaper voted in favour of that agreement.
- Tentative deal reached between Chronicle Herald, striking employees
The province announced in July it would get involved in the dispute by appointing under the Trade Union Act a commissioner who would bring both sides together. If the commissioner's attempts at mediation had failed, he would have launched a public hearing to investigate the causes of the dispute.
The paper's owner, Saltwire Network, and the Halifax Typographical Union said Saturday they had reached an agreement to end the almost 19-month long strike after two days of mediation. (The CBC's Canadian Media Guild belongs to the same parent union as the newspaper.)
O'Hanlon told CBC Radio's Mainstreet he hopes the government will turn to the legislation again if there's another extended strike in Nova Scotia, because "it accomplished in two days what the regular process couldn't accomplish in 18 months."
He said he suspects the company wanted to avoid a full public hearing.
Union numbers dwindled
Neither the union nor the Herald have disclosed terms of the deal. A representative of Saltwire said company CEO Mark Lever was not available for an interview.
Employees with the union have been on strike since Jan. 23, 2016. At the time, the union included 61 reporters, editors, photographers, columnists and support staff. That number has dwindled to 52.
The employees will vote on the agreement today, after an information session that starts at noon. O'Hanlon expects the votes to be counted by mid-afternoon, with the details released publicly soon afterwards.
'The main emotion is relief'
"A lot of people, the main emotion is relief. So I would be surprised if it didn't pass but I never want to assume what the members are going to do," he said. "It's in their hands and the members are always right."
During the strike, the province's longest in a decade, it relied on replacement reporters — many from outside Nova Scotia — who crossed the picket line.
Meanwhile, striking workers launched their own news site, localxpress.ca. It's unclear what will become of that website if a deal is ratified.
Asked if the long standoff might cause a chill in the newspaper industry, O'Hanlon said that only would have been the case if the union had crumbled during early negotiations.
"I think it would have had a strong effect had we collapsed," he said. "Had we caved in to all the concession demands earlier in the strike I think that would have had an effect because other employers would have been emboldened.
"But listen, no employer wants to go through an 18-month strike. So if anything this might have shown other employers they've got to be careful."