Vultures circling as talks continue

I’ve been a bit quiet about contract negotiations at the Gazette since the strike vote, and that’s mainly because there’s nothing to report. Both sides were in talks Thursday and will return to the table Friday. People are optimistic, but the work-to-rule campaign and byline strike continue, and the guild has suggested employees bring personal effects home.

The Montreal Newspaper Guild website has the latest update, which also points out that talks for the 37 employees in the (non-classified) advertising department have broken off.

UPDATE (Oct. 10): No strike is being called for the foreseeable future. Friday’s talks had progress, though jurisdiction remains a roadblock. Conciliation talks are set for Oct. 20 and 21, and the guild says that “additional measures” are necessary to show that the union is “serious” about its demands.

Meanwhile, management is apparently preparing for the worst, with Canwest News Service making inquiries of Concordia University journalism students (and Gazette freelancers) who might want to work freelance for them in the event of a strike. Because they’d be working for Canwest and not The Gazette (even though Canwest owns The Gazette), they would not be breaking Quebec’s tough anti-scab laws, even if what they write is of local interest and would only appear in The Gazette.

Concordia’s journalism department director, Mike Gasher, has sent a letter to students cautioning them against working as freelance scabs, Macleans reports.

UPDATE: CBC has picked up the story (with requisite “CBC has learned” which implies they didn’t just read it from Macleans’ blog), and J-Source has picked it up from CBC. The CBC story includes a denial from Canwest News Service’s editor-in-chief that the inquiry has anything to do with a possible Gazette strike.

Thanks mostly to the CBC, other blogs are also picking up the story.

UPDATE (Oct. 14): La Presse also writes about the story, this time including a new explanation from Canwest: that the freelance copy would be needed in the event of a Gazette strike in order to provide material for Canwest News Service and other newspapers across Canada, to compensate from the loss of Gazette copy (Canwest has no non-Gazette journalists in Montreal). Of course, as a subscriber to Canwest News Service, The Gazette would have access to this copy as well.

Journal in negotiations

As if that weren’t enough, workers at the Journal de Montréal are also at the bargaining table for a new contract, mere months after their sister union at the Journal de Québec accepted a new contract that removes their four-day work week and requires journalists to perform multiple multimedia jobs.

Updates are on the Journal du Journal website. So far nothing too serious is coming out, besides low-level pressure tactics like wearing yellow lanyards.

Still, management at La Presse are no doubt creaming their pants multiple times over at the thought of their two main competitors both being crippled by work disruption simultaneously.

Ozzy Osbourne too

Just figured I’d throw this in there: the Writers Guild of America is telling members not to work for Freemantle Media, which produces a new Ozzy Osbourne “reality” show, because they couldn’t reach a deal that would involve paying writers less in order to write less (because it’s “reality” and therefore “half-scripted”).

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