Workers at the Windsor Star, who successfully fought off demands for major concessions, have voted to accept a new contract, setting the stage for deals at other Postmedia newspapers.
A tentative agreement, reached Friday by a CWA Canada-Unifor joint bargaining council on behalf of three union locals at the paper, was put to a ratification vote on Sunday, with an overall thumbs-up of 91 per cent.
The Windsor Typographical Union (CWA Canada Local 30553), which represents more than 100 employees in the mailroom, voted 84 per cent in favour of accepting the three-year contract that runs until May 2021. The same members had, in January, sent a clear message of defiance to Postmedia with a near-unanimous strike vote.
The Windsor Local had vowed last year to stand together with their fellow union members at other Postmedia papers against concession demands that would have slashed health benefits and cut company pension contributions to three per cent from five per cent.
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said the union is satisfied with the deal and happy it did not come to a strike or lockout.
“While we didn’t make a lot of gains, we stood firm against deep concession demands and that is a big victory,” O’Hanlon said.
“Our members have protected pension contributions and maintained their health benefits, showing the advantage of standing united in a union.
“A big congratulations to the bargaining committee for their resolve and leadership.”
The victory in Windsor triggers a return to bargaining at The Gazette in Montreal and at the Ottawa Citizen / Sun, and also sets the stage for deals at the Sault Star and the Sudbury Star.
CWA Canada staff rep David Wilson, who has led negotiations at all of the Locals at Postmedia papers, was extremely proud of the outcome in Windsor.
“The joint council stood strong and didn’t waver in its resolve,” he said.
Wilson noted that two CWA Canada locals, at the Kingston Whig Standard and at The Nugget in North Bay, which had settled “me-too” collective agreements last year, will now automatically get Windsor’s health benefits and employer pension contributions of five per cent.
The gains in the deal include:
- A 0.5-per-cent wage increase in 2020.
- A one-per-cent pay increase effective June 3 for mailroom staff earning less than $20 an hour.
- All staff who work nights see an immediate 50-cent increase in shift differential, bringing it to $2.50 an hour.
The joint council did agree to two concessions:
- The defined-benefit (DB) Postmedia Pension Plan is to be frozen. Union members not already in it will move into the Windsor Star (DB) Pension Plan, but the employer will continue to contribute five per cent. They will have the option when the collective agreement expires of moving to a different, larger plan.
- Existing staff remain in the health benefits plan, but new hires will be enrolled in a different plan with fewer benefits at a higher cost.
Wilson said it has been a long haul for the CWA Canada locals trying to negotiate new agreements with Postmedia, which has slashed its workforce country-wide and in January 2017 launched a major assault on pensions and benefits. All the while, the company has paid millions of dollars in bonuses and raises to executives and tens of millions to its American vulture fund and other lenders.