By Mitchell Thompson
After 10 months on strike, the union representing journalists at the Halifax Chronicle Herald launched a complaint to the Nova Scotia Labour Board, alleging unfair bargaining practices, which the company denies.
Members of the Halifax Typographical Union told the Coast the “newspaper’s management is bargaining in a manner designed to end union representation’ and preventing an agreement from being reached.”
On Nov. 25, the company responded in a press release, promising to fight the “baseless unfair labour practices complaint filed by striking newsroom staff.” The company’s CEO says rather than union-busting, the company is only seeking “a number of concessions to make the business sustainable.” The Herald declined J-Source’s request to comment further.
The union has already “reluctantly” made concessions in pensions, accepted an across-the-board five per cent wage cut, and agreed to a non-union production hub, said Martin O’Hanlon, president of the Communications Workers of America Canada, which represents Herald reporters.
“They claim this dispute is about money, yet when we offer to agree to their monetary concessions, they refuse to drop their non-monetary demands,” said O’Hanlon. With management pressing demands like getting rid of the union’s bulletin board and replacing laid-off workers with “scabs,” O’Hanlon believes the real goal is to bust the union.
O’Hanlon described these moves as “a clear union-busting effort” wrapped in a “poison pill” that will cut seniority and allow the company to conduct indiscriminate layoffs. As well, the company is seeking freedom to discipline journalists for their strike activities and to “contract out any work it chooses,” according to O’Hanlon.
He added, however, that even though Nova Scotia has “notoriously weak” labour laws that favour management, “the poison pill proposal is clear and we hope the Nova Scotia Labour board will see it.”
Regarding the sustainability of the business, O’Hanlon said the company is wasting more on lawyers and security than what many of the union’s proposals would cost.
“The company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal costs and $500,000 on security and private investigation to ‘protect’ themselves from 55 peaceful media workers,” said O’Hanlon.
There are also costs that aren’t so easy to measure. “They’ve done irreparable harm to their brand now,” O’Hanlon said.
Mitchell Thompson is a third-year journalism student at Ryerson. He is also the ideas co-editor for Folio and a contributor at Disinformation. He has previously written for Rabble, Canadian Dimension, Dissident Voice and others.