Members of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild (ONG) have voted 32-24 in favour of an offer from Postmedia. The result averts a lockout in Ottawa and an imminent strike in Montreal.
“Postmedia’s campaign of fear was successful,” said ONG President Debbie Cole. “Although many of us, 24 of us, believed their lockout threat was just a scare tactic, the majority of our membership believed it.”
Postmedia had threatened to lock out the 63 members of the ONG (CWA Canada Local 30205) who work at The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun as of midnight if the deal had been rejected at the conclusion of voting today.
“The members have spoken,” CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said. “It’s clear that the company’s threat of a lockout influenced the result. I think most people wanted to vote No, but in the end, they decided they’d rather take a bad contract than face being out on the street and that must be respected.”
The focus now turns to The Gazette, where 58 staff represented by the Montreal Newspaper Guild (CWA Canada Local 30111) are in a legal position to strike if the company does not present a better offer. The MNG would have called an immediate strike had their colleagues in Ottawa been locked out.
Ron Carroll, president of the MNG, called the deal Postmedia foisted on Ottawa “an atrociously bad contract” that leaves staff “on the hook for thousands of dollars of extra costs in benefits every year, a mind-boggling 30-per-cent reduction in sick pay and, when it expires, nearly a decade of no wage increases.”
Carrol said the MNG has been presented “with much of the same intolerable concessions and then some, but our members are united and are resolute in not bowing to the greedy hedge fund masters that control Postmedia.”
“If we receive the same threats of a ‘final’ offer and a lockout as was done in Ottawa without any serious and substantial bargaining for a fair and equitable contract, the employer can be assured our members will show their hardened resolve,” he added.
Cole said a lockout in Ottawa “would not have been a good financial move for the newspapers. (The company) even had the nerve to suggest that, if they locked us out, the drop in circulation and advertising revenue would be the union’s fault — blaming us for what they were going to do.”
“One thing about our members, they care about the newspapers,” said Cole. “They care about them more than the company who owns them. They did not want to be responsible for a negative effect on the health of the papers.”
ONG members, who work in the newsroom, reader sales and service, financial service, in-house printing and building maintenance, were divided on whether to accept the latest offer from Postmedia, which contained many concessions, or continue to fight for a better deal against an increasingly threatening employer. Talks over more than two years had yielded little result. All the while, Postmedia was handing out bonuses and pay raises to executives.
“The galling part is knowing that Paul Godfrey has managed to bully his employees into taking concessions while he took a big fat wage hike of over 30 per cent,” said O’Hanlon. “The rich get richer, and so it goes.”