Halifax Chronicle Herald strike begins with bitterness on both sides

It’s been a while since we had a good old-fashioned newspaper labour conflict in this country.

On Friday night, the Halifax Chronicle Herald entered one as the union and its 61 workers went on strike to avoid severe cuts the company said it would impose. This despite the fact that the union had offered concessions — including wage decreases — at the bargaining table.

J-Source has background on the issues here.

And today, as union members walked the picket lines and encouraged people to unsubscribe to the paper and boycott its advertisers, 18 of its members received layoff notices, and seven of them additional offers to return to work in non-union positions with different working conditions. (The CEO explains in this memo sent to those who weren’t laid off.)

The Herald plans to continue publishing, using managers, but also some more creative ways of getting around the union. It has an agreement with Brunswick News to provide copy that might appeal to a Nova Scotia audience, and it has reportedly approached students and others to act as freelancers during the strike.

The Halifax Typographical Union is active on its Twitter account, with bitter comments about the newspaper’s management. The newspaper also got a bit snippy today:

And Herald president and CEO Mark Lever has been responding to some critics on Twitter, though judging from the replies he’s getting he’s not a very popular person.

On the CH website, they’ve so far played it safe and posted Canadian Press coverage of the strike, which is a good practice in general for media reporting on themselves. (It might help if they posted that story anywhere on their homepage.)

You only need to look at the Journal de Québec and Journal de Montréal lockouts to know that they can lead to a lot of resentment. Even if a deal is reached here, the Chronicle Herald may never be the same.

UPDATE (Jan. 24): The layoff notices have been suspended.

Not just the big guys

One thing I should note about this: The Halifax Chronicle Herald is an independent newspaper. (It’s described as Canada’s largest independent daily, which is true only if you ignore the Globe and Mail, La Presse and the Winnipeg Free Press.)

Those who blame the media’s problems entirely on consolidation should remember that the Chronicle Herald, CHCH TV, the Hudson Gazette and other independent media are also feeling the squeeze.

Speaking of which, the Nanaimo Daily News, owned by the Black Press, just announced it’s shutting down next week.

2 thoughts on “Halifax Chronicle Herald strike begins with bitterness on both sides

  1. David Asselin

    Using SCAB replacement workers and only offering several striking workers to return to work in non unionized jobs sounds like union busting to me. Even Pierre Karl P didn’t succeed at breaking the union at Montreal’s Journal de Montreal. This is a reflection of Nova Scotia’s poor labour laws.

  2. Dilbert

    “Those who blame the media’s problems entirely on consolidation should remember that the Chronicle Herald, CHCH TV, the Hudson Gazette and other independent media are also feeling the squeeze.”

    Consolidation is a major contributing factor in all of this. The big companies tend to engage in a race to the bottom in order to get ads in their papers, on their TV channels, and on their radio stations. They will package, they will group, and they will pander to national accounts, essentially dropping their proverbial pants to get the job done. The effects drag on to independent media outlets, who are forced to offer better rates and better positions / times in order to attract national and regional accounts. The net effect is declining income. Moreover, by giving much of the preferential ad space to national ads, they harm their local marketing efforts.

    When you combine all that with lower overall ad spends, less demand, and a public who is more dispersed than ever, and it adds up to quite the perfect storm.

    As for the strike, well… my sympathies to them, but I think the strikers need to realize that the times are changing, and changing very fast. Layoffs, staff reductions, and more flexible work rules are required for a newspaper to even have a hope of seeing the rest of the decade out. It’s also hard to have a lot of sympathy for a strike by people who have declined an offer that would see them paid between 3 and 5 times the minimum wage, especially where there is a huge lineup of recent journalism grads who would gladly take their jobs for half of what they get paid.

    The party is over, someone please tell the newspaper unions about it.


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