Tag Archives: Journal de Québec

Journal de Québec columnist J. Jacques Samson dies suddenly

J. Jacques Samson, a former Le Soleil National Assembly journalist who since 2004 wrote for the Journal de Québec, died suddenly on Wednesday. He was 66.

The news was broken first by his own newspaper. But since then has spread all over Quebec media. It prompted tributes from provincial politicians, big city mayors and other members of the media, business leaders, and an editorial cartoon in his honour.

The newspaper also issued a formal statement.

Being a political columnist, Samson wasn’t universally loved. In 2013 he was subject to a successful complaint to the Quebec Press Council over a column about student protests. But the list of people mourning his passing is long.

Samson’s columns, the last of which was published June 26, can be found here.

No more paywall at the Journal de Montréal

“Autre nouvelle importante”, it starts, burying the lead a bit: The Journal de Montréal announced on Wednesday that all content on its website will now be free. Ditto for the Journal de Québec. No more paywall on either site.

The Quebecor-owned paid newspapers instituted their paywalls in 2012, putting some content behind it but leaving other content free. At the time, the purpose of the paywall was to protect the print edition’s subscription fees.

So what’s changed? La Presse asked, and the answer is basically that their priorities have changed: with the rise of social media, reach has become more important, and a paywall is a hindrance to that.

So the Journal falls back onto advertising as the primary source of digital revenue, even though digital advertising hasn’t exactly taken off. It’s in that line that it signed up for Facebook’s Instant Articles, which allows JdeM stories to be read directly in people’s Facebook feeds. Publishers can include ads in the feeds, which is supposed to be a way to increase revenue.

Other Canadian launch partners for Instant Articles are Chatelaine, Diply, The Huffington Post Canada, Maclean’s, Sportsnet, The Canadian Press and TVA Nouvelles, plus some international media like BuzzFeed.

The Journal de Montréal’s decision isn’t that surprising considering the context. Its competitors in francophone news, including La Presse, Radio-Canada, RDS, TVA Nouvelles, Métro and others don’t have paywalls. Le Devoir is the only major francophone publication that still has one up, and it’s not searching for as many hits as possible.

On the English side, we’ve seen the Toronto Star drop its paywall, but The Globe and Mail and Postmedia (my employer) still have them, porous as they may be. And they put them up after concluding it was a mistake to have content online free in the first place. Will they follow suit in determining it was a mistake to consider that a mistake?

The decision would be much easier if online advertising was a viable revenue source.

Meanwhile, this decision means the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec will be even more eager for as many clicks (or taps or whatever) as possible. There’s a huge incentive for clickbait, so don’t be surprised if it increases.

Journal de Québec reaches four-year deals with unions

There will be four more years of labour peace at the Journal de Québec.

Sun Media announced on Friday that it has reached labour deals with three unions at the Quebec City newspaper, representing printing, office and editorial workers, each lasting four years.

The press release doesn’t give details, but FM93, which reported on the deals on Thursday, says the employees made some serious concessions, including virtually eliminating the four-day work week for those who still had it, reducing compensation for personal car use on the job, and reducing the workforce by 10-15 jobs (out of a total of 175) through voluntary departures.

Nevertheless, the deal was met with strong support from the unions, with 85% support from editorial and even higher from the other two. The fact that no one will be forced out of jobs for another four years seems to be the big selling point.

Financially, the SCFP union reports there will be pay increases, but only starting in 2015. After a freeze for next year, pay will go up 1% in 2015, 1.5% in 2016 and 1.5% in 2017. That’s about in line with inflation over the past year, which has been around 1%.

More telling is the union negotiator’s statement that talks “progressed with mutual respect” and that “the union takes its place as a partner in the company.”

The last labour deal at the JdeQ was reached after a long bitter lockout in 2007-08, that saw employees producing their own newspaper as a pressure tactic, and the employer making increased use of external sources of news. That lockout set the stage for a much bigger one at the Journal de Montréal in 2009, in which both sides stepped up their game. It also prompted a legal review over the legality of replacement workers working remotely, a battle the union ultimately lost.

The 2008 JdeQ labour deal, reached as the U.S. financial crisis was turning into a global recession, had pay increases of 2.5% a year.

At the end of August, Quebecor-owned Videotron reached a deal with 800 employees in eastern Quebec and the Saguenay. Could this be a sign that Quebecor’s lockout strategy is coming to an end?

UPDATE: The story published in the Journal de Québec about its own labour deal just republishes word-for-word Quebecor’s press release (with some style changes) and then tacks on a quote from the union’s press release. It doesn’t mention that the quotes are from press releases.

Journal de Québec (re-)launches Saguenay regional edition

Quebecor announced on Tuesday (though we’ve known for almost a month) that its Quebec City paper the Journal de Québec will be producing a regional edition for the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, with at least seven pages a day devoted to the region, including two pages of sports.

A regional section of the Journal de Québec’s website has also been launched, and the new edition has its own Twitter account.

This isn’t the first time Quebecor has done exactly this. It began in October 1973, but ended in October 1981, by which point it had reached eight pages. An economic slump, rising costs and tough competition from Le Quotidien were cited as reasons for cutting the edition, which makes you wonder what’s changed.

Le Quotidien, owned by Gesca, is the only daily newspaper in the region. Transcontinental has community weeklies there, and  Quebecor serves it through its weeklies Le Point du Lac-Saint-Jean and Le Réveil in Saguenay. (The latter, you might recall, locked out its employees around the same time of the Journal de Montréal lockout, and became a shell of its former self after that ended in severe job cuts.)

“The newspaper will draw on the work of journalists at Quebecor Media’s various subsidiaries in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean,” the press release says, which means we can expect to see reports from Le Point, Le Réveil and TVA’s Saguenay station in this edition. (In fact, here’s an example already of a story condensed from one in Le Réveil, with the fact that it’s about a contestant in TVA’s Le Banquier moved up to the first paragraph.)

Quebecor doesn’t say how many jobs are being created by this move, but a welcome note from the editor lists names of new journalists: Jean Tremblay, Roger Gagnon, Pierre-Luc Desbiens, Roby St-Gelais, Charles-Antoine Gagnon and Frédéric Champagne.

Radio-Canada’s report says these new employees will work for Agence QMI, which means they’ll be non-unionized.

The paper also promises columnists from the region, starting with:

  • On Fridays, Jacques Brassard, former PQ minister and MNA for the region (who once had a column in Le Quotidien and then quit  and started a blog)
  • Marc Fortier, GM for the QMJHL team Les Saguenéens de Chicoutimi,
  • On Mondays, Denis Gravel, a radio personality who was born in Chicoutimi and is a morning co-host at CHOI-FM in Quebec City
  • A snowmobiling column from Marc Larouche and Patrick Boucher

If that snowmobiling thing sounds a bit like pandering to the region, it’s not. There’s plenty of more obvious cases of pandering to new Saguenéen readers.

Regional editions are common for big-city papers, though less so than they used to be. The Globe and Mail produces slightly different editions for different regions of Canada. The Gazette distributes a West Island section to its subscribers in the West Island and western off-island areas. The Journal de Québec already has “thousands” of subscribers in the Saguenay region, so it makes sense to offer them a little something extra.

Whether this move can create serious competition for Le Quotidien is a big question. But it certainly can’t hurt.

UPDATE (December 2013): A year later, the regional edition remains, but local content is down to four pages a day (plus the cover, which often has local elements), two of which are sports.

Journal de Québec lockout battle is over – and the employees lost

One of the first big stories I followed with this blog was the lockout at the Journal de Québec. It started in April 2007, when this blog was two months old, and ended in the summer of 2008 with the workers accepting a deal. While people will remember the Rue Frontenac project as one that changed the way labour (and particularly media-related labour) should react to conflicts, the idea for it came from MédiaMatinQuébec, a free daily newspaper distributed by locked-out Journal de Québec workers.

In reality, both Quebecor and the unions learned from that conflict, lessons that were used when the much more bitter Journal de Montréal lockout began in January 2009.

Even after the conflict was over in Quebec City, the legal battle continued. The union complained that Quebecor was using scab labour in the form of independent third parties to produce its news. Quebecor was taking advantage of a loophole in the law, written for an era where people walked into factories to build things as their jobs, that defined scabs only as those people who enter the workplace to do work of locked-out or striking workers.

In December 2008, the union won a decision by the labour board, which redefined the meaning of “workplace” to include anywhere someone does their job, and not the physical building where offices are.

But Quebecor appealed to the Quebec Superior Court, and in September 2009, it overturned the labour board decision, keeping the workplace definition as it was and ruling that the third-party employees were not, in fact, scabs.

The union appealed that decision to the Quebec court of appeal, which dismissed it last September. It appealed again all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which on Thursday ruled it would not take the case. It was on a list of cases dismissed, with costs.

The union was, naturally, profoundly disappointed.

The next step for union supporters is legislative. The Quebec government came under a lot of pressure during the Journal de Montréal lockout to update the law forbidding strikebreakers. But after the JdeM lockout was over, that pressure disappeared.

It remains to be seen if this decision will bring that pressure back or if it will take another major labour conflict to bring it back to the forefront.

The entirely unbiased history of the Journal de Québec lockout

The Syndicat Canadien de la fonction public publique (Canadian Union of Public Employees) has put together a 23-minute video (in French and with English subtitles) about the 15-month lockout of editorial employees (and subsequent strike by press workers) at the Journal de Québec in 2007 and 2008.

As you can imagine, being a union-produced video, it’s hardly detached from the situation and presents a somewhat distorted view. There are no interviews with Quebecor or Journal management (who knows if the SCFP even tried). Talk of the deal that was eventually reached talks of it being a huge victory for the workers, while in reality it was more of a reasonable compromise between the two sides’ demands.

Even though the labour disruption ended in the summer of 2008, the saga is far from over. The union is appealing a court decision that nullified a labour board ruling that the Journal used scabs as subcontractors during the lockout. There’s also a fight over Quebecor Media wanting to add additional Journal de Québec journalists to the National Assembly to make up for the Journal de Montréal journalists currently being locked out.

Looking back at the conflict also serves as a comparison with the current situation at the Journal de Montréal (and Le Réveil, whose 26 locked-out workers want to go back to the table). The chasm between workers and employer in Montreal is even larger than it was in Quebec, although many of the issues are the same.

But the union, and the documentary, are right about one big thing: The MédiaMatinQuébec experiment changed the face of labour disruptions involving journalists, and is serving as a template. The template couldn’t be entirely replicated by the STIJM in Montreal (Montreal already has two free newspapers – one owned by Quebecor – and the territory is larger than Quebec City), but the Rue Frontenac website might not have happened were it not for MMQ.

Unfortunately for the union members, Quebecor also learned from the Journal de Québec lockout. It learned how to get around anti-scab laws, and made sure its Agence QMI was setup so it could take news from other sources and reproduce them in the Journal de Montréal.

If the Journal de Montréal workers end up with a deal similar to what the Journal de Québec workers got, that will probably also be hailed as a huge victory for the union. But who knows how long it will be until that happens. Both Quebecor and the STIJM are prepared for the long haul.

Le Trente also has some discussion about the SCFP’s video.

They weren’t scabs after all

In December, Quebec’s labour relations board made a precedent-setting decision in a case pitting the Journal de Québec workers union against the newspaper and news agencies Quebecor did business with while the union was locked out.

In the decision, the Commission des relations du travail expanded the definition of “workplace” in Quebec’s anti-scab law, ruling that since journalists perform their work outside of the office, their workplace is anywhere and everywhere.

The decision had huge implications for labour in the information economy. Unlike factory workers, information workers can do their job from just about anywhere, submitting their data to the employer when they’re done with it. Under this decision, the Journal de Québec and other employers couldn’t simply contract out work to other companies that was being done by its own employees.

Quebecor and the Journal de Québec appealed the decision, and this month Quebec Superior Court overturned the CRT’s decision, setting the definition of “workplace” back to what it was before.

As a result, the workers deemed scabs by the CRT have had those labels removed by the court.

And anyone who does a job that deals mainly with processing information and data has lost the protection that a union might have given them, because they can be simply replaced by subcontractors in case of a strike or lockout.

Coverage:

As Agence Nomade pops the Champagne corks, the union says it might appeal the decision, but it seems that this might ultimately go to the politicians at the National Assembly, who will have to make clear what their intention is about banning replacement workers.

Sorry, you’re a scab

The publication of the Journal de Québec decision comes on the same day that the Quebec Press Gallery rejected an application by two of its employees, who are attached to Agence QMI’s new parliamentary bureau. The decision came after a long debate about whether to accept members who have involvement in companies with labour disputes.

After rumours circulated that Quebecor might sue members of the press gallery’s board, it also adopted a resolution protecting thost members in case of legal action related to their official functions.

Journalist unions win big in Journal de Québec decision

In a decision handed down Monday by the Commission des relations du travail, Quebecor Media and the Journal de Québec were found to have illegally used scab labour to replace locked-out and striking workers during the 15 months they were on the picket lines.

The decision is a huge victory not only for the Journal de Québec workers’ union, but for journalist and other unions in general. It sets a precedent for what qualifies as “workplace” in Quebec law, extending its definition beyond the physical building where offices are located.

For those unfamiliar with the story, editorial workers at the Journal were locked out in April 2007 after negotiations on a new contract were stalled over the issue of convergence (having journalists do multimedia jobs). Immediately, press workers went on strike, and the Journal was left with just over a dozen managers to put out a daily newspaper.

Shortly after the labour conflict began, we started hearing about news content providers that appeared out of nowhere: Keystone Press, a photography agency, and Agence Nomade, a wire service. In addition, reports that news conferences in Quebec City started seeing reporters from “Canoë”, which is Quebecor’s web portal and shares content with its newspapers.

The union complained that this was essentially scab work. The decision finally got resolved after the conflict ended, even though the issue had become moot by then (the Journal fought to get the issue dismissed after the labour conflict ended, but the union pushed to get a judgment).

The details

Among the findings in the judgment (50-page PDF) concerning the scab labour:

  • Keystone Press, dubbed a scab company by the union, tried unsuccessfully to pitch its freelance services to the newspaper until the day after the lockout, when it was contacted by the president of Sun Media. Up to that point, the photography company had no office in Quebec, but had three photographers in the region the next day, taking photos of news events. The Journal would ask Keystone to cover specific events, and would then have exclusivity over the photos for a 36-hour period. Keystone in turn signed agreements with its photographers (in English) which paid them a set rate per hour of work. The commission singled out Geneviève Larivière, Antoine Leclaire and Pierre Gauthier as scabs.
  • Ferron Communications, a PR company, was hired by the Journal to provide news articles. It hired two journalists, Bernard Plante and Dominic Salgado, to cover news for the Journal. This continued until about June when the Journal found this method of operation too expensive.
  • Canoë, Sun Media’s web portal, had no journalists in the Quebec City region before the labour conflict (for that matter, it didn’t have much of a news operation at all – it was an aggregator of Quebecor’s newspaper and TV content which it would throw online). A few weeks after the lockout began, they put out ads looking to hire journalists in the region on a temporary basis. The group of journalists inluded Plante and Salgado, as well as Geneviève Riel-Roberge, Hubert Lapointe, Marc-André Boivin, Reine May Crescence and Mélanie Tremblay.
  • In August 2007, all these journalists were told they were working not for Canoë, but for a company called Agence Nomade. This company, a wire service, was actually an idea by Quebecor CEO Pierre-Karl Péladeau. It was ostensibly setup by Sylvain Chamberland, one of PKP’s friends, to compete against Presse Canadienne (Canadian Press’s French equivalent). It offered its content exclusively to Quebecor Media (including TVA, 24 heures, Journal de Montréal, etc.). Because Nomade retained no rights to its content, Canoë and Quebecor could pretend it was theirs. Again, the Journal would “ask” that certain events be covered, and Nomade would “decide” what it would cover based on that. Journalists would file to Nomade, who would forward texts to Canoë and the Journal.
  • Despite these changes, the journalist scabs would always present themselves as being journalists for Canoë.
  • The journalists, who had to work exclusively for Nomade (and hence, Quebecor and hence, the Journal de Québec) as scabs on repeating short-term contracts got a salary equivalent to $40,000 a year for their troubles.

The issues

In the end, the judgment came down to three questions:

  1. Were these journalists working for the Journal? The commission ruled that no, they were not. They weren’t being paid by the Journal, and were not taking orders directly from the Journal.
  2. Was the Journal using the services of these workers to replace locked-out workers? The commission ruled that yes, the Journal was actively making use of these workers’ services to replace their own. They assigned stories and photos which were then filed directly to them for use in the newspaper. Though technically the scabs were working for Agence Nomade, which in turn worked for Quebecor Media, the work they were doing was mainly for the benefit of the Journal.
  3. Were the journalists at the workplace of locked-out workers? This one was where the commission broke new ground. The idea of workplace wasn’t an issue in the days of factories with big pieces of equipment. You couldn’t work as a scab unless you were on the premises. But journalists with the Journal did most of their work outside the building, and so the commission ruled that wherever they did their work, either at the courthouse or at news conferences or at the National Assembly, these scabs were at their workplace.

What this means

Two unions are going to be very happy with this news: the union representing journalists at the Journal de Montréal (who will hold a press conference Tuesday to discuss its own contract negotiations as its current one expires Dec. 31) and the union representing journalists at The Gazette (their contract expired June 1 and they’re back at the negotiating table in January).

Had Quebecor won this case, it would have been a manual for other companies on how to get around Quebec’s liberal anti-scab laws. Have the journalists be freelancers, working for a separate company, and filing mainly for the website. But the commission threw a wrench in that setup, and that puts the unions in a much better bargaining position.

There’s still some room to maneuvre if someone wants to try this again. A lot of the focus was over the fact that the Journal asked for specific news events to be covered. Not to mention the fact that all of this was setup after the labour disruption started. Had those things been different, the decision might have been a little more murky.

But it’ll be much harder for a media company to get around a labour disruption in Quebec by outsourcing work to a third party. And that creates a huge shift in the balance of power away from newspaper owners and toward newspaper unions.

In case you’re interested, there are press releases from the union and from Sun Media.

Coverage elsewhere

UPDATE (Jan. 7): The Journal is appealing. The union says it’s not surprised.

MédiaMatinQuébec is dead

MédiaMatinQuébec's final issue: August 8, 2008

MédiaMatinQuébec's final issue: August 8, 2008

After more than 15 months, 317 editions and 12.5 million copies, MédiaMatinQuébec, the paper put out by striking and locked-out workers from the Journal de Québec, published its final issue this morning (PDF). Next week, the 252 workers return to the Journal de Québec and start re-learning how to do their jobs (which now will include increased use of multi-media for journalists), thanks to the deal that was approved last month.

In other words, it’s ok to like the Journal de Québec again (though it remains to be seen what it will take in from all that the employees have learned from putting out a paper over 15 months).

The MMQ’s final issue, at a staggering 80 pages, is filled with congratulatory ads from local businesses and unions, as well as retrospectives on the paper and the union’s long fight. In fact, other than the crossword and horoscope, that’s all that’s in those 80 pages. Stories about the 15 months of the paper’s existence, a collage of the best photos used in the paper, and mostly first-person retrospectives from dozens of employees who struggled through 15 months working in a cramped office, getting up early and standing in traffic handing out newspapers for pennies of strike pay. (Michel Hébert has a more poetic obit on his blog as well as a copy of his final column.) It’s also interspersed with comments from readers who say they’ll miss the free paper with no filler material, no wire services and 100% local news compiled by dedicated professionals.

You’ve never seen so many people happy to see their paper cease to exist. But then, that was its goal all along. The deal reached with the Journal wasn’t what either side wanted, but it was fair. And now everyone can return to work and start receiving a proper paycheque again.

More importantly, MédiaMatinQuébec may have changed the face of media union pressure tactics forever. Taking what happened during the CBC lockout to the next step, they put away their baseball bats and picket signs and protested by doing their jobs. And the public loved them for it.

MédiaMatinQuébec is dead. Long live MédiaMatinQuébec.

Union approves deal at Journal de Québec

Employees at the Journal de Québec have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a deal in principle with their employer, starting the process to end the labour conflict after more than 14 months out of work.

The deal, worked out overnight during intense negotiations, includes the following points:

  • A five-year contract
  • 2.5% pay increases per year
  • An end to outsourcing of classified jobs to Kanata, Ont.
  • A four-day, 37.5-hour work week (9 hours, 22 minutes and 30 seconds a day), except for classified which work 37.5 hours over five days
  • A week more of vacation for part-time/temporary workers who have worked more than 10 years
  • A guaranteed minimum number of journalists covering Quebec City news, but allowing reporters to perform multimedia jobs
  • Changes to pensions and retirement benefits, plus a bunch of other stuff that I’m sure even union members didn’t care much about

The union says that MédiaMatinQuébec will continue publishing until the employees return to work, which is still weeks away.

Analysis

The terms of this deal seem to be a pretty solid down-the-middle compromise on key points (which prompts me to ask the question: Why the heck did it take so long to hammer out a deal?). The 2.5% per year increase and 37.5-hour work week is consistent with the employer’s demands, but the workers keep their four-day week intact and avoid outsourcing of jobs to non-unionized employees elsewhere.

The announcement doesn’t go into much detail about the other main issue: asking workers to perform multimedia jobs in addition to print reporting. It will be interesting how this major sticking point is eventually resolved.

This conflict has had mixed reaction from the public. Some have questioned some of the seemingly unreasonable clauses the contracts contain (starting with the four-day work week) and said the Journal needs much more flexibility. But most came out on the side of the workers, thanks in large part to MédiaMatinQuébec which laid out their position on a daily basis and made them out to be the underdog against the evil corporate media empire of Quebecor.

If this conflict is finally resolved, it will be good news for the Journal, good news for its workers, and will change the face of media union pressure tactics here for a long time.

But in the end, only one winner emerges from the prolonged, 14-month conflict at the Journal de Québec: Le Soleil, its direct competition.

Comparisons to the Montreal Star, which folded after a prolonged strike, are already being made.

Now we wait and see what happens at the Journal de Montréal, which is also in contract negotiations.

UPDATE: LCN has some interviews and other video on the subject.

Commentary on the matter also from:

Indefinite lockout

There seems to be no end in sight for the Journal de Québec labour conflict which began in April 2007. As much as local unions are standing behind the workers and their MédiaMatinQuébec newspaper, those funds aren’t infinite. At some point, MMQ or the Journal are going to fold for good. Maybe both.

Meanwhile, Canadian Press has an overview of the difficulties getting Quebec Sun Media employees (basically now the Journal de Montréal) to “adapt” to the Internet. It casts the issue as if it’s the union being resistant to change, which I imagine is not how they see it.

Journalist, criticize thyself

This is why people don’t trust the media anymore: La Presse says TVA isn’t covering the Journal de Québec situation fairly, because both are owned by Quebecor.

There’s this thing with the media that’s always annoyed me:

  1. Journalists love to talk about their industry with other journalists
  2. People love reading about the media (within reason, of course)
  3. Journalists are hesitant to write about matters that are “in the family” (owned by the same company) or within the media outlet itself, whether because of paranoid self-censorship or orders from upper management not to pursue a story
  4. Journalists and their media outlets will never talk about their competition, unless it’s to report something bad about them, in which case they go all out.

La Presse isn’t immune to this. Neither is The Gazette (the paper I work for), nor any other media outlet I can think of. And the larger the corporate empire, the worse the problem gets.

Why can’t they be more honest about themselves? Giving a union boss criticizing a platform to criticize you makes you look bad, but denying that union boss a voice makes you look worse.

Remember: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.