Winnipeg Free Press strike enters 2nd week

As the strike at the Winnipeg Free Press enters its second week, management at the paper has made the unusual move of publicizing its latest offer to the union.

As the strike at the Winnipeg Free Press enters its second week, management at the paper has made the unusual move of publicizing its latest offer to the union.

The paper published an outline of its position on the Winnipeg Free Press website Sunday afternoon.

Publisher Bob Cox said that the paper is offering to meet the union's wage demands. There are outstanding issues when it comes to a buyout program for displaced workers when the paper buys new presses, he said.

Cox said he would not normally have published management's position, but he felt compelled to under the circumstances.

"We haven't found the other side very responsive in the last little while," he said.

"We sent them a … revised proposal on Friday and we didn't hear back at all all weekend. So we want talks to continue. We want to accomplish something, and that's why I did that."

Still far apart: union

Mary Agnes Welch, spokeswoman for the striking workers, said the union disagrees with management's take on the matter.

"His argument is that we're really very close and fundamentally the strike isn't about much at all, and we totally disagree," she said.

"There's still some deal-breaker concessions that are on the table. We're still far apart in wages, despite what he says."

The union is putting together a formal response to the management statement, Welch said.

About 1,000 members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, which represents editorial, advertising, circulation and press staff, as well as newspaper carriers, launched the strike action at noon Oct. 13. The workers have been without a contract since Oct. 1.

Pork-donation controversy

Meanwhile, Winnipeg Harvest, Manitoba's largest food bank, is dealing with a bit of a controversy related to the strike.

On Friday, — the website launched by the striking workers — reported that an unnamed Winnipeg Harvest volunteer had dropped off a half a tonne of "surplus" frozen minced pork for the striking workers.

"Winnipeg Harvest had a surplus and they asked me if I could get rid of it," the worker is quoted as saying.

Only the previous week, Winnipeg Harvest executive director David Northcott had appealed for donations of food and cash, saying their cupboards were bare.

On Monday, Northcott told CBC News that the frozen pork had been produced during a federal sow cull program that reduced the province's hog population by thousands. Winnipeg Harvest distributed the pork to more than a dozen organizations in the city for redistribution to their clients.

One of those organizations gave the meat to the pickets, he said, suggesting it could possibly have been a group that had Free Press carriers as clients in the past.

The meat was in no way surplus, he said.

"I think that's a really bad descriptor," he said.  "It was hard-fought and hard-won pork that's come through the culled sow program, so by no means was that surplus at all."

Northcott said he doesn't regret the meat going to striking workers, but he says that's not where it was intended to go.