Workers of the Journal de Montréal have voted 89.3% against a contract offer that would have seen only 50 of 253 locked-out employees keep their jobs.
The offer was the result of negotiations held under a blackout, and while neither side would confirm that one was on the table (they wouldn't even confirm that a meeting was being held to vote on it), some details had leaked out through the media, which notes that it is unchanged from the offer the employer tabled last month:
- The deal would have seen only 50 of 253 jobs kept, among them only 17 journalists (out of 65), five editors and four photographers. The employer would choose who could keep their jobs
- It would have required the shutting down of RueFrontenac.com,
at least temporarily(UPDATE: No, it was permanent) and a promise not to launch any competing newspapers
- Those losing their jobs would be prohibited from working for La Presse or Cyberpresse for a period of time
- In exchange, the employer would offer unspecified severance pay to those losing their jobs
The vote is unsurprising, if only because 80% of those voting would have lost their jobs (and been prevented from seeking equivalent jobs elsewhere), and even though some of those might have been close to retirement and decided that some money was better than none, a strong feeling of solidarity in the union was more than enough to overcome those who were tired of the conflict and wanted a quick end at any cost.
Even though the lockout is in its 21st month, the Rue Frontenac operation is still in high gear, and is in fact gearing up. The union plans to launch a weekly paper version of Rue Frontenac this month. Meanwhile, there are hints of a parliamentary commission to negotiate an end to the conflict.
The union was quick to issue a release announcing the offer's rejection (the blackout having been lifted). It includes this quote from union head Raynald Leblanc: "C'est une insulte envers nous, mais aussi envers tous les lecteurs du Journal de Montréal. Comment peut-on prétendre faire un journal de qualité avec aussi peu de personnel?"
Selon lui, le plan de Quebecor est simple. Moins d'information, plus de profits. En fait, la nouvelle salle de rédaction du Journal de Montréal n'aurait plus de journalistes à l'économie, ni aucun chroniqueur salarié. Tout proviendrait de l'extérieur, via l'Agence QMI, qui bafoue sans vergogne le principe d'étanchéité des salles de nouvelles.
Pire, l'entreprise a indiqué vouloir garder ses 25 cadres à la rédaction, ceux-ci se retrouveraient donc à superviser 32 employés. « Il est clair que l'arrogance de Quebecor est liée à l'interprétation restrictive faite par les tribunaux des dispositions anti-briseurs de grève. S'il y avait un tel ratio de cadres dans le système de santé, Le Journal de Montréal, Le Journal de Québec, TVA et LCN en feraient leurs manchettes et dénonceraient cette situation absurde », affirme Raynald Leblanc.
Quebecor also issued a release saying it was "profoundly disappointed" in the offer's rejection. It gave its side of events in the next day's Journal, downplaying the number of job cuts by playing around with numbers of part-time staff, those on disability or those near retirement.
Rue Frontenac, which stayed away from the story until after the meeting (becoming the only news outlet not to report on the story at first) simply pointed to other news outlets' reports on the subject (for "objectivity's" sake) and then published this rather non-objective piece on the subject.
LCN, to their credit, covered the vote fairly.
UPDATE: More commentary from:
- Plateau mayor Luc Ferrandez on what the Journal has become (a piece that itself was covered in news stories by La Presse, Radio-Canada, Le Devoir and Rue Frontenac, and even an editorial cartoon by Beaudet)
- René Vézina on why the media isn't talking much about the conflict
- Pierre Duhamel on the Journal's exaggerated scandals
- Yves Boisvert on how unreasonable Quebecor's demands were
- Patrick Lagacé (on Mario Dumont's show) on Quebecor's non-competition demand
- Patrick Lagacé, Anne Lagacé Dowson, Martin Petit and Franco Nuovo on Christiane Charette, about public support for the locked-out workers
- Nathalie Collard in her usual detached analysis
- Le Club des Ex on the non-competition part of the offer
- Rue Frontenac's cartoonist Beaudet takes on the non-competition clause and a joke at Banquier's expense
- Le Soleil's cartoonist André-Philippe Côté also takes a swipe at Quebecor
- Michel David on the government's refusal to update Quebec's scab law
- La Presse's Michel Girard on how the Caisse de dépôt is as much to blame for what's going on with Quebecor Media
- Le Soleil's Gilbert Lavoie on the need to update Quebec's anti-scab law
Trente also interviews Leblanc on his feelings about the offer.