The 71 workers at a Postmedia printing plant in Toronto have ratified a first contract that gives them major gains in wages and sick leave.
The online vote on Saturday to approve the tentative three-year deal came 15 months after they were officially unionized and joined CWA Canada Local 30213, the Canadian Media Guild.
The workers in the press room, reel room and distribution centre at the facility on Islington Avenue will see higher wages in various categories as well as receiving overall annual increases of 2.0, 3.2 and 3.8 per cent.
They will go from receiving no paid sick leave to four weeks at full pay, then 22 weeks at 70 per cent of earnings for those with more than one year of service.
CWA Canada staff representative David Wilson said there are other improvements including pension, statutory holiday pay and vacation entitlement.
The rapid organizing drive at the Toronto plant was kickstarted last year when Postmedia imposed company-wide cuts early in the pandemic and didn’t take steps to ensure the safety of the essential workers at the printing operation.
Michael Melo, who was involved in the organizing effort and was a member of the bargaining committee, said it was the final straw for workers, who hadn’t had a raise in nine years. They had endured reductions in salary, benefits, pension, vacation and hours of work.
“It was a slow erosion of cuts. We had to stop the bleeding. We wanted to take some control over our lives,” said Melo.
They were well aware that no unionized Postmedia workers, including those represented by CWA Canada, agreed to the pandemic wage cut, “so it didn’t happen.”
CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon welcomed the workers last July when they won certification, saying they deserved much better from Postmedia.
“While Postmedia has been paying millions a year to its top executives and tens of millions to its hedge fund owners/lenders, the people that do the real work have been struggling to get by,” O’Hanlon said. “That’s simply not fair and it’s time to change things. These workers deserve a real voice in their workplace and the power to negotiate decent wages and working conditions.”