The largest independently owned newspaper in Canada likely will see a work stoppage within two weeks.
The Chronicle Herald and the Halifax Typographical Union have reached an impasse, noted in a final report by the government conciliator filed to the provincial labour department Friday.
That report's filing triggers a countdown to a work stoppage after 14 days, meaning either a strike or lockout could happen starting January 23.
"My suspicion is that we will be locked out," union vice president Frank Campbell said on the phone from Truro, N.S., Saturday.
"That was the company's agenda from the get go. They are keen on making these changes and they obviously suspected that we wouldn't comply with them."
Replacement reporters sought, union says
The union says this time, management has proposed a 17 per cent pay cut — and to lay off a third of newsroom staff, including editors, web editors and all the photographers.
"We are worried about the company's direction because they seem to be going toward what they call custom content — sort of 'advertorial' stuff or sponsored content — instead of objective content from news reporters," Campbell said.
"This, I think, is troublesome for anyone who reads a newspaper or likes to get news that they can trust."
He says the union has heard from freelance journalists who say management asked them to replace reporters during a lockout or strike.
The conciliator will hold two more days of negotiations, a "last ditch effort" to prevent a work stoppage, Campbell said.
Demands 'reflective' of all media, Herald says
In a press release Friday, Herald management said the changes being sought "are reflective of changes happening at media companies throughout North America."
Nancy Cook, vice president of administration, said in the release the company wants to reach an agreement before a work stoppage.
Cook could not be reached immediately Saturday for an interview.
The company had reached an impasse in part because "the union never responded to the company's monetary proposals," her release said.
Strike vote coming
The lead negotiator for the union disputes Cook's version.
Management presented a final offer of more than 200 individual contract changes, said David Wilson, a representative of the Communication Workers of America, of which the Halifax Typographical Union is Local 30130.
"They don't seem to understand the word compromise," Wilson said.
"They can say all they want, 'They didn't get a response' ... A final offer is your final position."
The union is holding a membership meeting Jan. 16 and may hold a strike vote at that time, he said.