Nova Scotia

Chronicle Herald surprised union didn't accept 'richest deal in Atlantic Canada'

Union says newspaper executives tabled a position that was worse than the one that prompted the strike in the first place.

Union says company's proposal was worse than the one that prompted the initial strike

Both sides in the Chronicle Herald strike have been meeting with a provincially appointed conciliator, but they appear to be at an impasse. (CBC)

Talks between the Chronicle Herald and its striking workers broke off today after union members said the company tabled a position that was worse than the one that prompted them to go on strike in the first place.

The Halifax Typographical Union represents 61 reporters, editors, photographers, columnists and support staff. They walked off the job on Jan. 22, starting a strike at Canada's oldest independently owned newspaper.

Both sides had been meeting with a provincially appointed conciliator. They were making proposals and counter-proposals, but they appear to be at an impasse.

Chief operating officer for the Chronicle Herald Ian Scott said he didn't expect union members to walk away from the table on Wednesday. 

"We were actually quite surprised," he said. Scott said the company offered union members "the richest deal in Atlantic Canada in the newspaper industry, without question." 

Vice-president of the Halifax Typographical Union Frank Campbell said union members were willing to accept some cuts, but the company was asking for too much. 

"We're not thinking that any of our members are going to say that, yeah, we've been on strike for four months and now we want a worse deal than we turned down in the first place," Campbell said.

State of the industry

Scott said the company has no choice but to make cuts — and their proposal to the union reflected that. "It's a good deal. It's, frankly, the best deal we can offer," Scott said. "But it is one that is concessionary by nature." 

The newspaper industry is in transition, Scott said, and everyone has to find a way to operate more cheaply.

"We can't afford to do a deal that would put the rest of the company in jeopardy," he said. "The worst-case scenario would be to accept a deal that is not sustainable for the long term." 

Campbell said cuts will affect the quality of the journalism at the paper. "They want their efficiencies, as they call them, which is, to me, getting work done cheap by people who aren't very good at it."

He said if the company wants the paper to be relevant in Nova Scotia, they need to attract journalists with the right wages and benefits.

Strike continues

Union members will continue to walk the picket line, including picketing in front of businesses who continue to advertise with the newspaper, Campbell said.

In the meantime, he said the paper will continue to "flounder with stories that are less than what people expect, and with no real accountability, and with advertising and subscriptions falling off."

Scott said, on the contrary, that circulation has remained steady and there has been no impact on advertising revenues.