Le Devoir this morning reports that concilitation talks at the Journal de Montréal (fun fact: next door to conciliation talks for The Gazette) have broken down and a lockout is now imminent. An agreement to keep labour peace expires on Friday, so employees could be out the door as early as this weekend.
The report breaks a media blackout imposed on both parties by the conciliator, so neither side can confirm whether this is true.
The gulf between both sides is huge. Quebecor is demanding just about every point in the contract be changed in its favour, a total of 233 points of dispute. The union is fighting this, arguing that even in this economic climate the newspaper is raking in millions of dollars in profit.
Radio-Canada has compiled more details, including comparisons to the 16-month lockout at the Journal de Québec last year. On one hand, the existence of the free daily 24 Heures (which has just hired a bunch of journalists, supposedly for its website) means lots of content that can be repurposed for the Journal. On the other hand, a decision after the Journal de Québec lockout classified a lot of work by freelancers and subcontractors as scab labour, which means those loopholes won’t be available this time.
(UPDATE: News hit Twitter today that the lockout had already begun at the Journal, which would have totally showed how Twitter has scooped the mainstream media, if only it was true. Steve Proulx sets the record straight, and adds that the Journal has not changed its bargaining position at all)
UPDATE (Jan. 22): Patrick Lagacé has some thoughts on the JdM situation, and says he won’t be cheering if they’re stuck on the picket lines.
UPDATE (Jan. 23): Another update from Le Devoir, Proulx on the union meeting, a story from Presse Canadienne and Richard Therrien on whether we’ll see scabs ejected from press conferences like what happened in Quebec City.
Lagacé reprints a letter from the union to its members saying Quebecor walked away from the table. He also has a blog post explaining how the workers’ conditions, generous as they are, are not overly so for a company that’s still making a lot of money.