Tag Archives: MédiaMatinQuébec

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.

RRJ explores MédiaMatinQuébec

MédiaMatinQuébec's final issue: August 8, 2008

MédiaMatinQuébec's final issue: August 8, 2008

The spring issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism has an article by Carolyn Morris about the labour conflict at the Journal de Québec, and the MédiaMatinQuébec free daily put out by stiking and locked-out workers 317 times over 15 months (No. 317 is shown above).

Of interest to those who have read everything I’ve written about the conflict is a bit of back story about how the paper began, including the lengths union leaders had to go through to make sure word of their project didn’t get to their employer.

Sadly, when the labour conflict ended, the website was shut down, taking all the paper’s archives with it. The Wayback Machine has managed to store some web pages, mostly from the fall of 2007, and eight PDF versions of the printed paper, including a 16-page special edition devoted entirely to the sudden death of Quebec City Mayor Andrée Boucher.

MédiaMatinQuébec gets photo award

Its website no longer exists, but MédiaMatinQuébec’s name came up this week as the News Photographers Association of Canada announced the winners of its annual photo awards. (As is the tradition with photographers, the list is filled with typos and formatting errors.)

Unfortunately, there’s no gallery so we have no idea what these photos look like, but I’m sure they’re lovely. The press release announcing the nominations last month has some simple, vague descriptions which might help.

MédiaMatinQuébec, the strike paper put out by locked-out workers at the Journal de Québec until a deal was reached last summer, got first place in the spot news category, for a photo of a sky diving fatality from Benoit Gariépy.

Other Quebec winners include:

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.


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.

Where’s the line between union and journalist?

Last week, MédiaMatinQuébec, the Journal de Québec locked-out/striking workers paper that I’ve discussed here many times before, decided it would refuse ads from Quebec City’s administration, which is involved in its own labour issues. The city paid for ads in MMQ that explained its points in its negotiation with its union. But because that union supports MMQ, the paper decided it could no longer take advertisements that served to attack its allies.

Was a line crossed here? It’s one thing when MMQ refuses to take ads from Le Soleil, which has a vested interest in making the Journal conflict go on for as long as possible. But Quebec City has nothing to do with Quebecor.

Then again, the entire raison d’être of MMQ is as a union pressure tactic. Should we expect a union-produced newspaper to betray those who support it?

I guess it comes down to a simple question: Is MédiaMatinQuébec a newspaper, with a duty to be objective, or is it a union pressure tactic, whose content should further its ultimate goal?

One year and counting

A bit of union propaganda from the locked-out and on-strike workers at the Journal de Québec, who have been out of work for a year, and are still producing a daily newspaper off raised money while their old one deteriorates. Today, they’re encouraging people to boycott the Journal de Québec to protest the continued lockout.

UPDATE: Today’s special issue (PDF) is 56 pages, and filled with ads. Meanwhile, Steve Proulx argues that while he isn’t taking a position either way, it’s worth noting that the Journal’s current contract gives some rather extreme benefits to workers: high salaries, four-day weeks, paid days off on their birthdays, etc.

Journal de Québec: 9 months and counting

Locked-out and striking workers at the Journal de Québec have asked for an arbitrator to finally help put an end to the conflict that’s been going on since April.

The seemingly unsustainable situation, where the paper has been relying on quasi-legal Canoë, Journal de Montréal, wire service and management workers to put out the paper while the unionized workers have been publishing a competing free paper five days a week, has gone on so long that union members are being offered subscriptions to the Journal, and MédiaMatin has started a classified section:

MédiaMatinQuébec classified section

The Journal is clearly not ready to back down, and as long as the union gets support from its solidarity-bretheren (the latest is the Réseau de transport de Longueuil) as well as overwhelming moral support from the public, they’re not about to fold up shop either.

Journal de Québec lockout: six months later

LCN has a report on the Journal de Québec strike/lockout, which is now 6 months old. Naturally, the union-says-this/employer-says-that news package doesn’t disclose the fact that TVA/LCN and the Journal are owned by the same company.

Meanwhile, workers on the picket lines were warmly received by union leaders across the country, and their strike paper MédiaMatinQuébec is still going strong with the help of enthusiastic advertising from local businesses.

UPDATE (Oct. 26): I totally missed this feature by The Gazette’s David Johnston on the lockout/strike, as well as an accompanying analysis piece on crossover reporting. Both concentrate on journalists being asked to take photos or video in addition to writing articles, which saves money but produces crappy quality of both.

MédiaMatinQuébec: Changing the face of labour stoppages

This blog supports MediaMatinQuebec

On the occasion of MédiaMatinQuébec’s 100th edition, blogger Tetoine is encouraging bloggers to show support for the Journal de Québec employees’ alternative paper.

Since the workers at the Journal were locked out (or began striking in sympathy for locked-out workers) in April, what might seem like a simple labour disruption has truly taken on a life of its own. The workers, who wanted anything but picketing outside the offices of the paper where no one would see them, started their own paper, giving it away free.

In the months since, the Journal has been trying to use the courts to shut MédiaMatinQuébec down, claiming that it’s disloyal of striking employees to start their own paper. Quebecor lost that battle last week.

To keep the Journal running, management has been running wire copy, unedited press releases and stories from the Journal de Montréal (despite objections from the journalists writing them), and producing the paper with the help of 14 extra managers they suddenly decided to hire just before the contract expired last year. (The employees won a case last month getting four employees declared “scabs”) To show how seriously they take this matter, they also cancelled employees’ subscriptions to the Journal and banned MédiaMatinQuébec from what few stores they control.

The workers, meanwhile, have been busy. Producing a free paper every day hasn’t been easy or cheap, but they’ve been getting a lot of financial and moral support from labour unions, politicians (PQ, NDP) local businesses, fellow journalists, and of course the Quebec City reading public. They’ve handed out millions of copies, and launched a website at mediamatinquebec.com. They’ve even started stealing away advertisers.

But when it comes down to it, the only real winner in all this is Le Soleil, which is taking advantage of the strike to position itself as the Quebec City paper, and starting to recoup some of the readership it lost to the Journal after Le Soleil’s workers went on strike 10 years ago.

I don’t necessarily blindly support the workers in this case, and I certainly don’t support the Journal. But it’s hard not to be impressed with what’s been done and how they’re still going five months later. Stoppages at transit authorities and cemeteries stopped only after threats from the government. Since the populace doesn’t care much about a paper not producing original journalism, this stalemate looks like it could go on forever.

So long as organized labour keeps funding MédiaMatinQuébec and puts food on its employees’ tables.

For more details, consult this timeline of events.

Scabs at the Journal de Québec

The Journal de Québec have won a case before the Commission des relations du travail du Québec, which ruled today that four employees of the newspaper were illegally working as scabs during the labour conflict which has dragged on since April. The Journal was criticized by its union for a sudden increase in the number of managers just before the lockout began.

For more information on the labour conflict, you can go to MediaMatinQuebec, the website setup by the locked-out workers.