Nova Scotia

The Chronicle Herald's talks with newsroom staff break down

The largest independently-owned newspaper in the country has more contract trouble, this time with its newsroom staff.

The Chronicle Herald is the largest independently-owned newspaper in Canada

The Halifax Typographical Union which represents 61 news employees at The Chronicle Herald said in a release on Sunday that the company has ended talks with a conciliator after two days. (Cassie Williams/CBC)

The largest independently-owned newspaper in the country has more contract trouble, this time with its newsroom staff.

The Chronicle Herald has ended talks with a conciliator after two days, said Dave Wilson, a representative of the Communication Workers of America, of which the Halifax Typographical Union is Local 30130. The union represents 61 news employees.

"We are pretty confident the employer is going to lock us out," Wilson said. 

Herald management could lock out employees 14 days after the conciliator files a report, likely close to the end of January, he said.

Current compensation levels 'not sustainable,' says paper

In a statement released by the Chronicle Herald, it said it has reached an "impasse" with the union.

"Current levels of compensation are simply not sustainable and adjustments must be made," said Nancy Cook, the company's vice-president of administration.

She said compensation would still be above industry standards in the region.

The ending of conciliation talks mean both sides will start a countdown to a potential strike or lockout.

"We do hope that the unionized journalists will understand that the industry is in transition and that Nova Scotia is not immune to some of the challenges being faced in the industry," said Cook.

Contract would 'set us back 20 years,' union says

"We believe that the company, from the beginning, intended to lock us out," said Ingrid Bulmer, president of the Halifax Typographical Union, in a news release.

"The Herald left the negotiation table abruptly, leaving the union to digest a total rewrite of the contract that would set us back 20 years."

In February of this year, the company locked out 13 unionized employees who do the printing of the paper, its flyers and other products. They settled about two weeks later.

The union says the company wants to cut one-third of staff, reduce wages and increase hours and eliminate a clause in their contract that guarantees equal pay for men and women, doing the same jobs.

Cook said the union's allegation that the company has backed away from gender equality in the contract is "preposterous." 

She said the company introduced new language incorporating Nova Scotia's Human Rights Act, which included "the principle of equal pay for equal work."

Bulmer said she's concerned for the state of journalism at the Herald.

"As we face more deep cuts to the newsroom, we feel very strongly that the company is leading us toward irrelevance: Less depth, less journalism, fewer compelling stories, more rewrites of news releases and more sponsored content," she said.

Herald asked for proof of hardship

Some financial documents have been released by the employer, but the union is asking for more to prove the paper is struggling financially — and enough to warrant these measures, Wilson said.

The union is prepared to take the employer to court if they don't release more documentation, he said. The union will also ask subscribers to cancel subscriptions and advertisers to end contracts, he said.

Just over a year ago, the paper eliminated 17 newsroom jobs.

With files from Stephanie vanKampen

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