Locked-out workers of the Journal de Montreal have accepted - very reluctantly - an offer ending their two-year lockout.
After a 10-hour session inside a closed meeting at the Palais des Congrès, members of the Syndicat des travailleurs de l'information du Journal de Montréal voted 64.1% to approve a proposal by the mediator that will finally end the lockout that began on Jan. 24, 2009.
A back-to-work protocol still needs to be worked out. And approval is contingent on this being negotiated successfully. But it's unlikely anything will stop this deal from getting final approval.
The deal, which lasts five years, will see the Journal hire back 62 workers (plus one temporary worker), which includes:
- 24 journalists (12 in news, seven in sports and five in arts)
- five deskers
- four photographers
- four graphic artists
- an editorial cartoonist (assuming Marc Beaudet wants to return)
- a statistician (plus a part-time or temporary one)
- two quality control people
- one "adjointe"
- 10 people in classified (nine salespeople and one customer service agent)
- 10 people in the business office, including two accountants
The rest will share a $20 million severance package, whose method of splitting is up to them (something expected to cause a lot of tension as they decide how to calculate how much each worker gets). For those of them lucky enough to get the choice, they'll have two weeks to decide whether they want to rejoin their former newspaper.
Almost all of the Rue Frontenac personalities I talked to later Saturday night had already made up their minds: "No fucking way" are they going back to work for Quebecor, in the words of journalist Jessica Nadeau. Though some left open a slim possibility that they might accept a return, not wanting to close the door completely out of anger without thinking about it first, most of the core of Rue Frontenac made it abundantly clear that they are going to stay outside the grip of the Quebecor empire and try to make an independent publication of Rue Frontenac and RueFrontenac.com.
The contract is over 100 pages long and I'm just getting my first look at it. I'll post more details in the days ahead, but suffice it to say this is a huge victory for Quebecor and a giant defeat for the union.
But at least some people will get some money out of it.
As you wait for more of my thoughts, you'll find coverage of this story ... well, just about anywhere:
- The Gazette
- Le Devoir (which mentions how pissed off union members were that they found out the result of the vote via the media)
- Cyberpresse (Presse Canadienne)
- Globe and Mail
- Canadian Press
- Le Soleil
- Agence QMI
- QMI Agency
- and, of course, (eventually) Rue Frontenac.
Reaction and analysis is coming in from:
- The FPJQ, which sees this as reinforcing its worries about media concentration in Quebec
- Le Devoir's Stéphane Baillargeon, who wonders if the managers who have been doing the work of journalists for the past two years won't see themselves out of their jobs soon
- Le Soleil, which looks at how this affects the Journal de Québec
- The right, which sees this as a victory against the unions
- Mauvais Oeil, which humorously looks at how readers of the Journal and the rest of the world see the conflict
And reaction from the journalists themselves: