Striking Chronicle Herald workers file complaint to the Labour Board

Negotiations are still going poorly.

click to enlarge More like parade of rights! - DYLAN CHEW
Dylan Chew
More like parade of rights!

Members of the Halifax Typographical Union say they are ready to meet with the Chronicle Herald “at any time,” but the feeling isn’t mutual.

After almost 300 days on strike, the HTU officially filed a complaint this week with the Nova Scotia Labour Board accusing management of unfair bargaining practices.

At a press conference on Monday morning, striking Chronicle Herald workers spoke about their employer’s actions, arguing that the newspaper’s management is “bargaining in a manner designed to end union representation” and preventing an agreement from being reached.

“The Herald, for almost 11 months, has put proposals on the table that are basically designed to be rejected,” said union member Claire McIlveen.

The most recent mediated bargaining session took place about two weeks ago, but the HTU hasn’t met directly with the Herald’s bargaining team since before the strike started back in January.

“They don’t seem to want to talk with us face-to-face –and given their actions, I can kind of understand why,” said McIlveen. “We have bent over backwards in terms of concessions for this company.”

According to McIlveen, the HTU has agreed to a five percent wage cut across the board as well as increasing work hours, which means a 17 percent decrease in hourly pay. Despite this, she says the Herald hasn’t budged on the “major issues,” save one exception.

In March, the Herald removed any mention of pay equity from the contract of its striking staff, later releasing a statement, saying it had replaced the clause with “stronger language that reflects the laws of the province” in relation to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. Since then, McIlveen said, the Herald has conceded on the HTU’s demand to drop the contract stipulation altogether. Other concessions haven’t been accepted.

“It’s been very frustrating for our bargaining team,” said McIlveen. “We’ve offered the sun, the moon, the stars and they are still saying no.”

Members of the arts community were also in attendance on Monday. Susan Leblanc of Zuppa Theatre was one of those who talked about the impact the strike has had on arts journalism. Declining interviews, reviews and advertising with the Herald has meant less publicity and a smaller audience for many artists.

“Making this decision was not difficult, but the repercussions of the decision could be,” Leblanc said about Zuppa’s boycott. “Audiences who have traditionally relied on the Herald to find out about our shows and events no longer hear about us.”

On behalf of the HTU, McIlveen publicly thanked everyone who has cancelled their subscription because of the strike. She also noted that, as Christmas approaches, the union is asking people to boycott the businesses that are continuing to advertise in the Chronicle Herald.

“We don’t really like doing this,” said McIlveen. “Because there is no anti-scab legislation in Nova Scotia and the Herald has replaced us with largely less competent journalists, we feel we have to ask advertisers to pull their advertising from the Herald.”

Speaking of Christmas, the Herald’s annual Holiday Parade of Lights will take place this weekend, as per usual. The HTU says none of its members or their children will be attending this year’s parade.

“There’s not a great deal of light and happiness in our membership coming up to Christmas,” said McIlveen, pointing out there are many single parents in the union who will have a difficult Christmas due to the strike.

“I have a lot of confidence in my fellow Nova Scotians…I will leave it to people to make their own decision as to whether they wish to support the Chronicle Herald this year.”

The Chronicle Herald issued a press release in response to the union’s complaint. In the release, Ian Scott –the company’s chief operating officer –said “A legal challenge obviously puts the freeze on negotiations” and slows down the possibility of reaching a resolution.

When the strike started on January 23, the HTU had 61 members. Now, it’s down to 55—having lost prominent reporters such as Michael Gorman and Sherri Borden Colley, who moved on to work for CBC. As of Monday, there is no date set for further negotiations between the HTU and the Herald.

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