At a general meeting Sunday afternoon, members of three bargaining units at the Montreal Newspaper Guild, which represents workers at The Gazette, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate.
- Editorial: 98% (Representing reporters, photographers, photo processors, desk clerks, graphic artists and copy editors including myself)
- Reader Sales and Service: 100% (Representing what’s left of the department after the call centre was outsourced to Winnipeg)
- Advertising: 59% (Representing sales staff and other advertising workers outside the classified department)
Turnout was 70% of the 182 members.
Two other units, representing the business office and classified advertising, are currently under contract and are unaffected by this.
This vote greatly strengthens the union’s bargaining position as the two sides return to the table on Tuesday. It does not necessarily mean there will be a strike, but it does give the bargaining committee the power to call one if negotiations break down and they decide it’s necessary. The employer is currently in a lock-out position.
- Jurisdiction (a clause in the collective agreement that prohibits the employer from hiring non-unionized employees to do work normally done by the union, a clause that the guild argues is already being violated by the outsourcing of copy editing to Canwest Editorial Services in Hamilton, Ont.)
- Wages (the employer is offering no wage increase, the union’s starting demand is 6% per year)
- Job classification (the employer is asking that the distinction between reporter, critic, photographer and graphic artist be eliminated so employees can be forced to do jobs in more than one of these categories for no extra pay)
This strike mandate vote follows a similar one by the Ottawa News Guild representing workers at the Ottawa Citizen. They voted 83% in favour (though they had a higher turnout) and eventually settled on a 2-2.5% wage increase over five years (double what the employer had offered before the strike vote), with no jurisdiction guarantees.
UPDATE: Le Devoir has a brief about it. It describes the job classification issue as the “main issue,” which I think is debatable. The Gazette also has a brief, including a quote from publisher Alan Allnutt about how surprised he was by this vote.