National Post newsroom staff in Toronto and Ottawa are on tenterhooks awaiting a labour board decision that will determine whether they will become members of CWA Canada.
A majority of them (31 of 59) voted Sept. 29 to join the media union, but there were seven challenged ballots that were not counted. Those ballots are the subject of hearings before the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) held Nov. 20 and 21. The examination of witnesses will likely extend into the new year and a board decision is not expected until several weeks after hearings conclude.
In advance of the union certification vote conducted by the OLRB, the newsroom employee committee behind the organization effort drew up a list of workers who would be included in the bargaining unit.
“The company added a few names to the employee list — which then became the voters list — that we believe are not part of the unit,” said the committee. “The union is submitting arguments to the labour board … about why we think these additional names should not be in the union. If we succeed, these ballots will not be counted and the vote will stand.”
Employees at the National Post, which has been strongly anti-union since it was launched in 1998 by now disgraced media baron Conrad Black, said in going public with their organizing drive in September that some might consider it a “hell-freezes-over moment.”
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said he was approached by the National Post workers early in 2017 after Postmedia announced cuts to pensions and benefits. They then began working with organizer Katherine Lapointe to encourage their colleagues to sign a confidential union card pledging their support.
Once a strong majority of staff had signed cards, the committee went public with the union drive and launched the website nationalpostunion.ca, on which it makes the case for organizing.
Postmedia has not spared its flagship newspaper from the severe austerity measures imposed company-wide on non-union employees. Nor have the staff had a raise in 10 years.
“We need a union. Logic and common sense demands it,” the committee said in a message to colleagues just prior to Labour Day. “Many National Post editorial staffers … are angry they’re being forced to take pay cuts while Postmedia executives … are collecting bonuses.”
O’Hanlon said the unionization effort is about protecting quality jobs and journalism and about fundamental fairness. Postmedia, he said, should be investing in the paper and its employees rather than destroying itself by squandering profits and ravaging assets to feed its hedge fund and other lenders.