Unions at 5 Postmedia papers unite against draconian contract cuts
Leaders of CWA Canada and Unifor Locals at five newspapers that are bargaining new contracts with Postmedia have vowed to stand united against the company’s concession proposals.
Postmedia wants unionized employees to accept draconian measures it imposed earlier this year on non-union staff. The company wants to freeze the Postmedia defined-benefit pension plan, slash its pension contribution to 3.0 per cent, reduce medical benefits, eliminate retiree benefits, and cut vacation entitlement, among other things.
In a letter to members in Kingston, Montreal, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Windsor, CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said they need to understand why the company is going after their hard-won gains.
“If this was a matter of helping the company survive, we would be happy to do our part and share the pain. But this is not about the survival of the company,” said O’Hanlon. “Postmedia papers are making money and the parent company reported a profit in its most recent financial statement.
“This is about the company taking money away from you and your family to feed its predatory lenders and line the pockets of executives.”
O’Hanlon said the unions “will take this message to the company and resume negotiations until new contracts are reached.”
Members of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild, who work at The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun, let the company know where they stood two months ago. They gave their bargaining team a strong strike mandate ahead of conciliation June 20-21, which did not budge the company from its demands that would gut the contract.
O’Hanlon said in his letter that members in Ottawa, as well as those at The Gazette in Montreal, the Kingston Whig-Standard, Sault Star and Windsor Star need to stand firm.
“Why should each of you give up tens of thousands of dollars in pension benefits so that Postmedia can pay tens of millions to its hedge fund masters and other lenders?
“Why should you give up medical benefits while Paul Godfrey and other top executives get $2.3 million in ‘retention’ bonuses? It’s just not fair.”
In a blog post days after that letter went out to CWA Canada members, Kenneth Whyte, the former editor-in-chief of the National Post, was not optimistic about the prospects for Postmedia.
“Expect increasingly savage moves by management over the next 12 months. More cuts to the product, the payroll, days of publication, etc. … The company’s owners have every incentive to keep it running no matter how painful the ordeal, or how pathetic the product.
“Ugly as it has been to date, we have only seen the overture at Postmedia. The next twenty-four months will be a horror show.”
When Postmedia issued a news release today about its sale of a west-end Toronto printing plant for $30.5 million, the proceeds of which would go towards debt repayment, O’Hanlon lashed out on social media:
“Typical predatory hedge-fund lender; cut to the bone, drain off all the profits, sell the valuable assets and, when nothing good is left, sell off what’s left of the company or declare bankruptcy.”
O’Hanlon pointed out that “this is not mopping up a troubled widget company. This is the orchestrated gutting of the country’s biggest newspaper chain. The implications for democracy and our society are dire.
“How is this kind of destructive, bottom-feeding capitalism legal? We’ve asked the federal Liberal government to bring in tougher regulations, but no luck.”
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