Members of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild began voting Sunday under threat of a mid-week lockout if they reject the “lousy deal” offered by Postmedia.
The company extended the lockout deadline to 12:01 a.m. Thursday to allow time for all members to vote.
Lois Kirkup, vice-president of the ONG (CWA Canada Local 30205), said the 63 members who work at The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun are feeling “bullied” by the company’s tactics.
She said many staff — who work in the newsroom, reader sales and service, financial service, in-house printing and building maintenance — are either angry or scared.
“My members are angry and scared, as they should be. And that was their tactic, to scare people into voting for a really lousy deal.”
After almost three years of bargaining, during which time Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey was handed a 33-per-cent salary increase and bonuses, the company is determined to wrest major concessions from the Ottawa workers who haven’t had a pay increase for six years.
The Guild had already made concessions on the pension plan, saving Postmedia millions of dollars. The company is demanding further concessions on health benefits and sick leave that could cost ONG members thousands of dollars.
Kirkup said members have also given up some vacation and maternity top-up. All they want is to keep their benefits intact.
“That’s the issue that hits me hard and hits my heart, because it’s just not fair,” said Kirkup.
Members of the Montreal Newspaper Guild (CWA Canada Local 30111) who work at The Gazette and are facing the same demands from Postmedia, will strike in solidarity with their Ottawa colleagues, said President Ron Carroll.
“Postmedia cries poor despite paying millions in bonuses to their top executives. Not to mention the company owned by billionaire hedge fund managers is profitable to the point where every Postmedia newspaper is in the black,” said Carroll.
He added that his 58 members and their counterparts in Ottawa “will not fold in the face of unacceptable concessions or by a threat of a lockout if we do not roll over to their demands.”
Kirkup said voting results will not be known until late Wednesday afternoon, but that the ONG will spend the next few days preparing for a lockout.