Montreal Newspaper Guild co-ordinating with Ottawa Newspaper Guild; potential for labour action at both newsrooms at the same time.
H.G. WATSON | J-Source
[~] Debbie Cole has been an employee of The Ottawa Citizen since 1977. She remembers when the Citizen’s union, the Ottawa Newspaper Guild, was almost 400-members strong.
That was a long time ago. These days, Cole, the president of ONG and a data analyst in the reader sales and service department, empties her trash and recycling bins into a communal repository because there aren’t enough building maintenance staff to clean individual desks.
“If you look at the paper you can see the results (of cuts) … the lack of local reporting, the lack of all kinds of things that should be in the paper and aren’t there anymore,” Cole said. “We don’t see it, but those cuts have also happened in other departments.”
The ONG unit which represents employees of the combined Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun newsrooms has dwindled to under 70 members.
And now, after negotiations with Postmedia management, the ONG faces a vote on Sept. 9 for a new contract which, according to Cole, demands cuts to Citizen and Sun employee benefits and sick leave, and offers only a minimal raise to staff who haven’t had one in six years.
If union members vote no, they are in a legal strike or lockout position – and if they go, the union local that represents staff at the Montreal Gazette will follow suit. After years of cuts, and facing an uncertain future, the union wants to take a stand.
According to CWA Canada, ONG’s parent union, meetings about ONG’s new contract started more than two years ago. During that period, Postmedia announced the Ottawa Citizen and Sun newsrooms would be merged, as part of a number of newsroom mergers and job cuts that took place in January 2016. It was a significant cut, but only one of many experienced by the Citizen, Sun and other newspapers across the Postmedia chain in the intervening months.
In June 2018, Postmedia closed six community newspapers and announced it would cut 10 per cent of its salary outlay across the company. (The Ottawa newsroom will lose four editorial staff members through buyouts as a result of the latest cuts.)