Posted in Media, Montreal

Gazette locks out two bargaining units

Two bargaining units of The Gazette’s production department were locked out on Sunday after rejecting the employer’s final contract offer.

One unit is tiny, representing a grand total of two platemakers (a position the Gazette wants to abolish because of advances in technology). The other is larger, representing 20 full-time employees and many more part-time and temporary employees in the mailroom.

Because of my obvious conflict of interest with this case (and, frankly, my lack of familiarity with the issues), I won’t comment on it. But I’ll post this for the record and link to coverage elsewhere, which discusses the main issues (hours of work is a major one):

Or, of course, you can get it from the horse’s mouths. The Gazette’s story is here. The union’s press release is here.

For the sake of clarity, I’ll point out that most departments at The Gazette are unaffected by this lockout. Editorial, advertising and other employees who work downtown are part of an entirely separate union, the Montreal Newspaper Guild. The people who actually deliver newspapers to your doors (well, the few of you who still get home delivery of a newspaper these days) are also not affected. The plan is for the paper to continue being produced, and so far that is exactly what has happened, with managers filling in for locked-out employees.

In meta news, Montreal City Weblog’s Kate McDonnell has said she will no longer link to Gazette stories online until the lockout is settled (she did the same thing for the Journal de Montréal during its lockout).

And I couldn’t help but notice that someone at Le Devoir seems to have confused The Gazette with an Old Montreal restaurant called gaZette that opened up where the paper’s offices used to be almost a decade ago:

This is not The Gazette

UPDATE: Le Devoir’s error also made it into the print edition, with a huge photo.

15 thoughts on “Gazette locks out two bargaining units

  1. AlexH

    I looked closely and I can’t find very much sympathy for anyone involved in this strike.

    Platemakers? I think there is also a steam train at the train museum that needs maintenance. Technology has made your jobs entirely redundant. I cannot understand why the paper would even negotiate to keep you, when your job is really not relevant anymore.

    The distribution people appear to have nice cushy jobs where they get paid for a full day but only have work for half a day, and are complaining that they would have to not only show up for a 5th day instead of 4, and actually (eek!) have to work on that 5th day. Basically, the paper wants to take your slack hours you are getting paid for sitting around and turn it into actual working hours (you know, where you do something). Seems like a pretty reasonable request, unless of course you are the worker who won’t get to spend half their day on a smoke break.

    Not easy to find sympathy here. Newspapers are an industry in transition, and the workers at all levels need to understand that the days of slack days and working at outdated jobs are long gone. The union needs to ask their friends at JdM how it all worked out, perhaps then they can understand why they are on the losing side of this lockout.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I can’t find very much sympathy for anyone involved in this strike.

      It’s not a strike, it’s a lockout.

      The distribution people appear to have nice cushy jobs where they get paid for a full day but only have work for half a day, and are complaining that they would have to not only show up for a 5th day instead of 4, and actually (eek!) have to work on that 5th day.

      The biggest complaint I’ve heard is from part-time and temporary workers. If the people who work four days a week now are bumped up to five (with no additional pay), they see their hours cut significantly. For some, they said they might work only a few days a month, or not at all. That’s why they voted against the deal. I don’t know how accurate or reasonable that is, but that’s what has been posted to some stories online.

      Reply
      1. sco100

        I still don’t understand why this lockout vs. strike thing matters so much to you. Once the conflict is taken up a notch because negotiations are stalled, why should we care who actually pulled the plug first? Regardless of which side is responsible for formally triggering the conflict and bringing it to a new level, you typically end up with both a lockout and a strike within days anyway.

        How many people nowadays actually subscribe to the notion that a strike is noble while a lockout is vile and treacherous? They’re just two sides of the same coin. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into this and it’s just the copy editor in you longing for increased semantic accuracy without subtly taking sides. Either way, let’s just call it a labour dispute and move on.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Once the conflict is taken up a notch because negotiations are stalled, why should we care who actually pulled the plug first? Regardless of which side is responsible for formally triggering the conflict and bringing it to a new level, you typically end up with both a lockout and a strike within days anyway.

          One could make the same argument about war. I think it matters who pulls the trigger.

          It’s not that I think one is evil and the other is not. Lockouts happen when the employer can’t handle the existing conditions, and strikes happen when the employees can’t handle them. But don’t blame the employees for triggering a labour conflict when they didn’t.

          Reply
          1. sco100

            In the case of war, we simply call it war while it’s ongoing and just let analysts or historians pick and choose from amongst a wide lexical spectrum – and according to their own values and stances – once the dust has settled. One guy’s genocidal war can always be another’s liberation war.

            While it’s raging though, the layman will typically just call it war, unless it’s taking place in his own backyard and sitting on the fence is not an option.

            Union wars are definitely not encroaching on my backyard. Perhaps these media union disputes are somewhat too close to home in your case.

            Reply
      2. AlexH

        Okay, “conflict”. For most people, the difference you point out is relatively unimportant, and could perhaps be better stated as “workers without a contract not currently working during negotiations”.

        For part time people, I am not really all broken up. You should know that when you take a part time job, that you risk it disappearing or being turned into a full time job at some point. Part time jobs shouldn’t be careers, and I am not clear why they would qualify for Union protection for that matter. It would appear to be just another way that the various press unions are trying to preserve the fat past, keeping as many members on the payroll no matter how little it has to do with the reality of the business.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Okay, “conflict”. For most people, the difference you point out is relatively unimportant, and could perhaps be better stated as “workers without a contract not currently working during negotiations”.

          Even that implies that the workers are doing so by choice.

          You should know that when you take a part time job, that you risk it disappearing or being turned into a full time job at some point.

          I’m pretty sure many, even most part-time workers would love for their jobs to become full-time. But these workers argue that voting for this contract would have cut their hours so significantly that they wouldn’t be working at all.

          Part time jobs shouldn’t be careers, and I am not clear why they would qualify for Union protection for that matter. It would appear to be just another way that the various press unions are trying to preserve the fat past, keeping as many members on the payroll

          Why shouldn’t part-time workers be unionized? And why shouldn’t unions work to preserve jobs? You expect them to actively work to throw their members under a bus? I don’t know how many union executives would keep their jobs under that strategy.

          I’m not saying the employer’s demands are unreasonable (I’m not saying they are, either), but to question the very existence of unions because they have the gall to want their members to have jobs seems a bit silly.

          Reply
          1. AlexH

            I don’t question the existance of unions, I only question if their motivations are reasonable in our current society. Is the goals of “keeping everyone employed” sort of not in keeping with the way business is going these days?

            I take particular exception to unions in a few situations, and one of them is in dinosaur businesses. The printed newspaper is well and solidly on it’s way to becoming a dodo, something that us old timers tell our grandchildren about (“I can remember when someone actually came to your door in a beat up old car and threw a paper at it”). The people who are involved in the printing and distribution of a printed newspaper need to be aware of this, and need to understand and accept that their jobs are in jeopardy at all times. If I believe the management side of the story (I don’t 100%, but I am certainly not buying what the union is trying to ship either), these workers have about 3 – 4 hours of actual work a day, get paid for 7+, and only have to come to work on 4 days. Is there no clearer indication that your job is redundant when you spend nearly half your day on a smoke break? This is the sort of wastefulness that makes Montreal blue collar workers look effecient.

            Having a union willing to stand up for it’s members is nice, but the union should also be seeing the writing on the wall. Considering the work load (and the number of people involved), it is quite possible that management types could do all the work for the forseeable future, leaving us with another JdeM situation. 2 years from now, the need for platemen and distribution people quite possibly could be even smaller than it is today. Shouldn’t the union be focused on keeping it’s members working, where possible, within realistic parameters? Or are they so blind to reality that they will allow the part time workers to dictate the fate of the full timers?

            In this case, it would appear that the union is bad for full time workers, and not really much better for part time workers, keeping them thinking they can somehow wag the dog. When you look at it, the union appears to be a hindrance for those who might actually want a job. Moreover, with a lineup of people outside the door currently on welfare or unemployment more than willing to do the work for the same price (or less), it would seem to be an incredible negative to the economy to keep pushing, long after it stops being justified.

            The times they are a-changing, and the ones who seem to be missing the boat are the unionized workers who still think a 4 day work week, cushy benefits, and a guaranteed pension are all normal.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              it is quite possible that management types could do all the work for the forseeable future, leaving us with another JdeM situation.

              The work of locked-out Journal workers was largely taken up by outsourced firms and QMI Agency, not management.

              Or are they so blind to reality that they will allow the part time workers to dictate the fate of the full timers?

              From what I understand, the former outnumber the latter, so they have more votes.

              The times they are a-changing, and the ones who seem to be missing the boat are the unionized workers who still think a 4 day work week, cushy benefits, and a guaranteed pension are all normal.

              I’m not disputing the four-day work week (though those with four-day weeks usually work more than eight hours a day), but why are benefits and pensions not normal? You make it seem like everyone from construction workers to doctors should get their jobs the way undocumented farm workers do, by going to the corner and waiting for a guy in a pickup truck to offer you work and tell you to get in the back.

              Reply
          2. AlexH

            “The work of locked-out Journal workers was largely taken up by outsourced firms and QMI Agency, not management.”

            In that particular case, yes. But in this case, where you are talking about 20 or so workers (many part time) it is doubtful that anything would be outsourced. I am guess that there is about enough work for 3 or 4 full time people from management to take care of it. Sad, isn’t it?

            “From what I understand, the former outnumber the latter, so they have more votes.”

            That too is sort of sad. While I know it never works out that way, it’s just too bad that the size of an individual vote isn’t calculated based on hours per week. If I was a full timer who has ended up locked out because of this dispute, because part timers don’t want to lose their jobs, I wouldn’t be very happy.

            “I’m not disputing the four-day work week (though those with four-day weeks usually work more than eight hours a day), but why are benefits and pensions not normal? You make it seem like everyone from construction workers to doctors should get their jobs the way undocumented farm workers do, by going to the corner and waiting for a guy in a pickup truck to offer you work and tell you to get in the back.”

            My understanding (from linked stories) is that the workers were doing 4 days a week, about 8 hours per day, and in reality only had about 3-3.5 hours of real work to do during a shift – that is management’s take on it.

            I don’t think that everyone should be standing on street corners like undocumented farm workers. But I do think that everyone has to be realistic. guaranteed payout pension plans are as old fashioned as the IBM selectric. Those days are gone, except for those who’s unions won’t let go no matter what. It’s what has been killing so many older companies, with huge pension funds to try to keep afloat with a smaller work force, and in a much more competitive landscape than when those pensions were created. I also think that workers have to be realistic in their demands, and in their working conditions. It is even more relevant in a situation where technology is changing the landscape, where the needs are changing, and the requirements for the job are moving. Platemen? They are the buggy whip makers of the era. Likely they should have been all gone the last time the Gazoo went through this battle, but a couple were kept on to get labor peace. Is there any true need for them?

            Is there any true need for a 4 day work week, short hours, and getting paid to sit and do nothing? Can anyone from the union actually address the issues and say “look, yes, the job is so hard that after 4 hours, the workers need a 3 hours smoke break to recover”? It seems to be more of the cushy job mentality that seems to be all over the Quebec newspaper business, slowly going away as companies refuse to keep paying for nothing. It cost a lot of people at JdM their jobs, and it took a very long time for the union people to grasp reality.

            Reply
  2. emdx

    It’s amazing to see how kids have been brainwashed by the big media to take position against the very unions who are the sole driving force behind the social progress that has happenned during the last century.

    Reply
  3. David Pinto

    Re: the fifth para ‘..
    Or, of course, you can get it from the horse’s mouths. The Gazette’s story is here. The union’s press release is here.

    The Gazette story is no longer available by clicking on that sentence. OTOH, the union’s press release remains.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Gazette, mailroom strike deal to end six-month lockout – Fagstein

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