The Chronicle Herald is in a position to lock out its newsroom staff and members of the Halifax Typographical Union are in a legal position to strike at midnight tonight.
Management has said they won't lock the workers out, but Wednesday they rejected a last-minute offer by the union to reduce wages by five per cent and cut vacation time.
- The Chronicle Herald faces major change — with or without a work stoppage
- Chronicle Herald work stoppage likely within days
Unionized employees include 61 reporters, photographers, editors, columnists and support staff.
Cleaning out desks
Gordie Sutherland, a web editor who is part of the union's communications committee, said he left work with a box of his things last night.
"You walk to your car and you don't know if you'll be back," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning.
Herald president Mark Lever declined Information Morning's request for an interview.
In an open letter published in today's paper, Lever said management has been asking for changes other media companies have accepted.
"To remain viable, we must take steps to protect the future of our business," he said. "It remains our intention to resolve our contract dispute respectfully and collaboratively."
CWA Canada, the parent union of Halifax Typographical Union, said management was proposing not to allow overtime until 48 hours, which it says none of its papers have.
The CWA said Thursday evening staff learned the paper set up an agreement with Brunswick News to share some content without bylines during a work shortage when stories relate to Nova Scotia's audience.
The CBC's Canadian Media Guild belongs to the same parent union, CWA Canada.
On Friday morning, JoAnn Alberstat, a spokeswoman for Halifax Typographical Union, said people are continuing to work despite not knowing if there will be a strike or a lockout.
Becoming the news
"We're not sure which it's going to be, but one way or another we are expecting to be out on the street as of early Saturday morning," she said.
"We want to be covering the news. We don't want to be in the street, but time will tell."
The Chronicle Herald's newsroom has been through two rounds of layoffs already, in the fall of 2014 and in 2009.
Sutherland said staff have tried to make up for the losses because they're passionate about journalism.
"Even in difficult circumstances you really try hard to get those stories out there," he said.
Turning in equipment
Members of the typographical union voted to strike on Jan. 16.
Last week, staff said management told employees they will have to turn in cell phones, laptops and other newsroom equipment today.
Sutherland said it's difficult to hear public criticism that the paper doesn't understand the challenges of the business.
"We understand it as well as anybody. We live it. We see how it changes all the time. How we do our job changes all the time, how we have to learn all the time. We have to adapt, and we want to do that," he said.
"Do we really think deteriorating quality and content is an answer to this problem? I don't think it is."