Nova Scotia

Chronicle Herald salary offer not 'richest' in Atlantic Canada

The union of Canada's oldest independently owned newspaper continues to strike, opposing a contract it says is out of line with the industry, which is seeing small salary increases.

'Why is the Herald the only paper in the country demanding such concessions?' says CWA president

Twenty-six Chronicle Herald employees have received layoff notices since January. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

The union of Canada's oldest independently owned newspaper continues to strike, opposing a contract it says is out of line with an industry seeing small salary increases.

In a media environment of cutbacks and closures, The Chronicle Herald's management calls this latest offer "the richest in Atlantic Canada."

"You put it in perspective. It may indeed be the richest newspaper contract in Atlantic Canada; it certainly wouldn't be the richest media contract," Halifax Typographical Union vice-president Frank Campbell said.

"The Herald is the biggest newspaper in Atlantic Canada. If you want to project as one of the big boys, well then I guess you pay your staff accordingly."

The Chronicle Herald's newsroom staff are facing returning to work with half the people with whom they went on strike. (CBC)

Salary cut

A survey, conducted by the writer of this article, of base compensation for unionized newspaper reporters shows those at the Herald earn a salary that appears to be in line with that of outlets in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

Under management's latest offer, Herald reporters — who would be "multimedia journalists" — would make between $18.08 and $35 hourly at 40 hours per week, the union said.

Before the strike, they made hourly $21.42 starting and $40 at the highest scale working 35 hours per week. 

Canadian Press, CBC reporters make more

In a smaller market, St. John's Telegram reporters make between $17.74 and $27.23 hourly for 37.5 hours a week. 

At Moncton's Times and Transcript, reporters make between $17.49 and $31.80 hourly at 37.5 hours a week.

Canadian Press reporters make between $26.62 and $42.91 hourly at 35 hours a week.

In comparison, CBC reporters, who may file to both broadcast and online, make between $27.55 and $36.42 hourly, working 38.75 hours a week.

The Chronicle Herald's management has hired replacement workers in order to keep publishing during the strike. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

Nearly half the newsroom would be gone

​The Chronicle Herald's management did not reply to interview requests, but chief operating officer Ian Scott said in an interview last week he was "actually quite surprised" the union did not take the offer.

The union says it can't agree to the contract for reasons beyond the wage cut.

The union, which now represents 57 provincial Chronicle Herald newsroom workers, faces returning to work at almost half its previous size. 

The company wants to lay off 26 staff, the union says. Four others have quit since the strike began.

Some senior editors, among those laid off, may be recalled to work to do similar, but non-union jobs at $20,000 less annually, the union says. 

Striking newspaper staff have been picketing outside their workplace since January. (CBC)

'Complete absolute gutting'

Certain clauses would also allow the company to decide who's in the union and who's out. Legal experts previously told CBC an earlier proposed contract would effectively kill the union.

"This is a complete absolute gutting of the collective agreement and, in fact, we would be a union in name only, if we agreed to this," said David Wilson, a union negotiator for HTU's parent union, CWA Canada. 

Newspapers other than the Chronicle Herald have offered small salary increases in recent contract negotiations. (Blair Sanderson/CBC)

Region sees layoffs

Atlantic Canada hasn't been immune to downsizing, most recently with TC Transcontinental's newspapers.

Last week, three reporters on P.E.I. lost their jobs, and the Montague bureau closed.

In St. John's, 13 people lost their jobs at the Telegram. Keith Gosse, the union's vice president, said by email the paper has had other layoffs and voluntary departures with severance. 

In New Brunswick, Brunswick News laid off all its photographers

Labour unions have been turning out to protest with Herald workers in Halifax and Sydney, N.S. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Salary bumps elsewhere

But even with the layoffs, newspapers generally aren't asking for wage cuts. 

Both the Moncton Times and Transcript and The Telegram in St. John's have seen salary increases. 

In most recent collective agreements for Newspaper Guild of Canada members from Fredericton to Medicine Hat, all included small pay bumps — and no concessions, according to CWA's president Martin O'Hanlon.

'Can't be about the money'

Two more newspapers that are bargaining right now — in Ottawa and Kingston — are leaning toward the same, he said.

"Why is the Herald the only paper in the country demanding such concessions? They are laying off half the newsroom, which will save them millions, so it can't be about money," O'Hanlon said in an email to CBC. "It's all about power."

The Chronicle Herald's newsroom workers walked off the job in mid-January. The paper has since hired replacement staff to continue publishing.

CBC's Canadian Media Guild belongs to the same parent union, CWA Canada.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Ward

Journalist

Rachel Ward is a journalist with The Fifth Estate. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.

now