The Ottawa Newspaper Guild will head into conciliation talks with Postmedia on June 20 armed with a strong strike mandate.
Members of the ONG, who work at The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun, today voted 91 per cent in favour of striking if the company doesn’t back off its onerous demands that would gut the contract. It is seeking changes to pensions, job security, scheduling, benefits and sick leave.
“We will not agree to any of these. That is why we asked for the strike vote,” said ONG President Debbie Cole.
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon, who attended today’s membership meeting, said the outcome of the vote was understandable.
“At a certain point, you have to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ We’ve reached that point,” said O’Hanlon.
“How can Postmedia justify trying to slash pensions and benefits for staff when it’s funneling tens of millions of dollars to its hedge-fund masters and giving $2.3-million in bonuses to its top executives?
“It’s outrageous, immoral, and we won’t take it.”
The CWA Canada Local, which represents 68 workers in Editorial, Reader Sales & Service, Financial Services and Building Maintenance at the merged papers, is well into a second year without a new collective agreement.
Postmedia abruptly ended a third round of bargaining in April, saying it would seek conciliation because talks were going nowhere.
Cole said that, when the company applied for conciliation, “we did not think they would want to meet in a hurry, but we were wrong. They are insisting on the June dates because Postmedia wants everyone on the same benefits plan by Sept. 1. The pension plan is changing Jan. 1, 2018.”
She said the company will make no more contributions to the defined benefit pension plan. While employees can join the defined contribution plan, Postmedia is looking to cap its contribution at three per cent.
“We have counter proposed they stay at five per cent and use the International Typographical Union targeted plan,” said Cole.
The company wants to kill the ‘freelance clause’ in the contract that provides job protection in Editorial “so they can lay off at will.”
“They want to take our sick leave out of the contract and have it managed by a ‘third party’ who will decide if you get paid or not,” said Cole. “But in any case, only the first five days would be at full salary, then down to 70 per cent.”
She added that the company wants more “flexibility” in scheduling, “meaning only one week notice and they can mix day and night shifts in the same week.”