A shared delivery deal between the owners of the Cape Breton Post and The Chronicle Herald has put members of two CWA Canada Locals in an uncomfortable position and riled pro-union islanders.
The arrangement came into effect last week, just as the editorial unit of the Halifax Typographical Union (Local 30130) was marking 14 months on strike.
The Sydney Typographical Union (Local 30460) represents 50 Post employees who work in the newsroom, advertising, the pressroom, customer service and as delivery drivers.
“We’re not happy that the Cape Breton Post owners — Transcontinental Media — decided to deliver a scab-produced newspaper,” striking Herald reporter Tom Ayers told CBC. He was picketing outside the Post building in Sydney, where the Herald also has offices and a news bureau.
“We’re not upset with the union. They have no choice. … we’re just trying to raise awareness,” Ayers told CBC reporter Holly Conners (who is also represented by a CWA Canada Local, the Canadian Media Guild).
On Twitter, Ayers characterized the Post’s delivery of the struck Herald as an “attack on (its) unionized staff.”
Steve MacInnis, president of the STU, said in a statement posted to the Local’s Facebook page, that they had no input in the company’s decision to deliver the Herald, “but members are now obligated to perform the work or risk possible disciplinary action from the employer.
“This is not a position we want to be in, but we are left with no choice.
“The union has expressed its displeasure with this move, given that members of our sister Local at the Herald have been on strike now for over a year.”
He noted the “unionized workers at the Post have shown their support to members of the Halifax Local through financial donations, attending the Sydney picket line, and participating in rallies.
“We fully support the efforts of our sister Local in their fight against the draconian demands from management at the Herald.”
The Herald’s treatment of its staff stands in stark contrast to labour relations at other newspapers where CWA Canada represents workers, including the Cape Breton Post.
The STU, after a brief round of bargaining in December, ratified a three-year contract that contained increases to wages, shift premiums, pension contributions and commissions for sales reps.
At the time, CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon noted in a Facebook post that the Sydney deal was “our sixth successful contract negotiation at a newspaper this year. … The Herald is the only newspaper demanding any significant concessions and they refuse to compromise despite our offer of wage, pension and other cuts. Why is the Herald — the dominant print media presence in Nova Scotia — so different from every other paper?”
The STU’s MacInnis expressed concern about a social media campaign initiated by local activist Juanita Mackeigan urging Post readers to cancel their subscriptions.
“We find such a suggestion shortsighted as it could have a devastating impact on the 50 unionized positions at the Post. Please remember, these people live in and support the local community,” he wrote.
MacInnis told the CBC that Cape Breton “is certainly a labour island, there’s no question about that. So people have very strong opinions.”
He suggested that, instead of cancelling subscriptions, Post readers express their discontent to their local MLA, the premier or labour minister, management at both the Herald and TC Media, and to write letters to the editor and send them “to every newspaper in the province outlining concerns and the need to have this strike settled.”